The Way I See It: Leadership comes from the ability to inspire and be inspired

I got to take a break from being a student at Rice University Sept. 19-24 and embark on an international leadership-development adventure at the FRED Forum in Barcelona as a student representative of Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders.

Taylor Jacobe in front of the Barcelona Cathedral. Photo provided by Taylor Jacobe.

Taylor Jacobe in front of the Barcelona Cathedral. Photo provided by Taylor Jacobe.

FRED is a gathering of individuals who are passionate about leadership development around the world. The group with which I was able to interact and work was incredible; there were CEOs, public figures and entrepreneurs who had all accomplished a great deal within their fields.

On the last day of the forum, the group participated in a workshop with Richard Olivier and Nick Ross of Olivier Mythodrama, a consulting group that improves executive leadership development through the use of literature and theater. Nick and Richard craftily compared our leadership development to that of the journey of Ferdinand in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” We spent the morning reflecting upon our experiences, especially during times in our lives that were transitional. Transformation and moving on from one project to another can be challenging, especially when one wants to develop their leadership skills along the way.

In “The Tempest,” Prospero, the character who embodies wisdom, gives up his manipulative uses of magic when he understands that they were not allowing him to grow; his “rough magic” was holding him back. At the conclusion of the workshop and forum, we had to pick something in our lives that was hindering our development as a leader and renounce it, giving up our own “rough magic” in a manner similar to that of Prospero. At first, I had trouble thinking of what my rough magic could be, but reflection upon the week immediately reminded me of how I had been holding myself back.

I spent the first two days of the forum on edge; as a “NextGen” leader, I was supposed to provide the perspective of a millennial. Throughout the week, I struggled with what this meant for me and how I was expected to contribute. I am by no means a voice of my generation. I was worried about how I’d be perceived by the successful professionals whom I interacted with on a daily basis, so the first two days of the forum consisted of simple interactions:

I was frequently asked, “What do you do?” or “Why are you here?”

I would try to respond quickly, without saying anything that could reflect poorly upon myself: “Oh, I’m just here as a student representative from the leadership initiative at Rice University.” Then, I would immediately shift the subject back to the person with whom I was talking.

On the morning of the third day, I began to seek out more meaningful conversations, and I made my first comments in a group setting. I felt like my opinions were well-received by the group, and it encouraged me to speak up more often. The morning spiraled into an inspiring afternoon of presentations by individuals who were innovating ways to improve the world. As someone who is passionate about public service and humanitarian efforts, I began to feel like I may have a place within this group. By dinnertime, I was fully coming out of my shell, talking about how much I loved Rice and interacting more comfortably with those around me. It took a while to get there, but I had finally found my comfort zone.

I came out of the FRED Forum feeling inspired to express myself more truthfully and looking at the world with a fresh perspective. When the time to speak came at that final workshop, I stood in a group of whom I now considered to be my peers, instead of my superiors, and said, “The rough magic I am giving up is using my inexperience and youth as a crutch.” I ripped up a piece of paper and let it fall to the ground, symbolizing my commitment to growth. I’ve learned that it is never too early to have big dreams, and age does not define how much you can contribute to a group, even if that group is filled with incredibly important, successful individuals.

As I reintegrate back into the jam-packed lifestyle that is so common amongst Rice students, I hope to be able to find more meaning in my actions and help others find meaning too. The way I see it, leadership does not stem solely from grades or extracurriculars or social events; it comes from the ability to inspire and be inspired.

–Taylor Jacobe is Wiess College senior studying economics.

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