This past week was one of my favorites here because one of my roommates from Pitt stopped in Madrid to visit before heading over to her study abroad program in Portugal! Because she was here, I spent more time out in Madrid with other people, which is refreshing after having so much independent time over the past couple of weeks. It was also nice having her here because it showed me just how much I know about the city and how adjusted I am to life here. Being able to give her suggestions of things to do and lead her around the city when I wasn’t at work was a really rewarding experience to have.
In fact, I think that one of the best parts about traveling is that it gives you so many opportunities to learn about leadership. Throughout high school, I held various leadership positions that gave me a good understanding of what it takes to act as a leader; however, I never had to truly apply them until I began to travel during my gap year. I traveled to many different places around the world and learned a lot about independence and confidence and about translating those qualities into leadership. My leadership style has always been more soft-spoken, but very thought and equality driven. I like to analyze situations and make sure that things are being completed efficiently and well. I also really value the participation of everyone involved. It has always been super important to me that everyone gets their say and that every idea is heard. These qualities continued throughout my leadership positions at Pitt and have definitely developed during my time in Madrid thus far.
I think that my self-leadership has developed the most during this trip. I have talked about independence a lot over the past couple of weeks, but that is because it truly is the professional and personal skill that has developed the most. Professionally, I have learned how to lead myself to the results expected of me. I have purposely set strict deadlines and successfully stuck to them. I have also worked overtime or stayed my full shift even when all of the other interns have left early. I think that self-discipline is a really important trait for leadership, and it is one that has strengthened during my time at Manos Unidas. In fact, I had no choice but to strengthen this trait due to the very relaxed leadership style of my boss. While I love that my boss is never constantly over my shoulder, I would appreciate some better guidance in order to avoid confusion over what is expected of me. It is difficult to judge if I am dedicating my time to what is wanted; therefore, I have trouble being confident in my work. Because of this experience, I have realized how important it is for leaders to step in when necessary. I always thought that the idea of a super laid back boss was great; however, I have now realized some of the cons to this style of leadership.
Another important leadership trait that has developed here is my initiative in communication. In my office everyone speaks Spanish, making it more difficult for me to jump in on conversations and contribute my ideas. I noticed this issue very quickly, which meant that I could start working on combating it right away. I began to really work on attentive listening so that I could be sure that what I said (even if sometimes grammatically incorrect and much slower than everyone else) would be useful and contribute to the conversation. My co-workers have always been very patient with my Spanish, and have been very encouraging of me speaking it so that I can practice. This encouragement is something that I have noticed in the leadership styles of many people within my organization, and one that I have come to really value. My co-workers helped encourage me speak more and to take more time outside of work to really focus on my Spanish and its improvement. I want to be able to participate and contribute to my job, and this encouragement and extra effort has helped me to improve my language abilities immensely. It is still more difficult for me to join than it is for everyone else; however, it has definitely improved since my first week here.
Overall, my leadership skills have improved tremendously in unique ways while here in Madrid. I think that now, it is important that I continue to focus on developing these traits and searching for more as I complete my final three weeks and when I head back to Pitt. I am excited to see how these skills are applied to future leadership positions and how I will be able to use them to better myself and my organization.