The leaders I admire most are the ones who are authentic in their values and show us the very best of humanity. Some leaders are elected, appointed, promoted, or even accidently anointed. But the leaders who seem to be change agents are the ones who choose to step into a role because they are more committed to service than they are to self-serving. The pathway to leadership is not linear or inherited, it is earned by showing up when people need you most and when there is no reward to collect.
Leadership is a journey, and that pathway for each of us is uncharted. The journey to serve AIR started with a nomination, which led to an election, and resulted in a vote as Vice President for the AIR Board of Directors. I chose to believe that those who nominated me did so because they saw something in me that could contribute meaningfully in that role. To honor that recommendation, I decided to put myself up for consideration in the 2020 elections. I had no idea what to expect, and any expectations I may have had were quickly consumed by a pandemic less than a month after I was announced as the next Vice President. The year that followed was a journey like no other and I could not have predicted that stepping into this leadership role would offer me some of the greatest insights I discovered about my leadership attributes.
Here’s the thing, I did not grow up seeing “leaders” that looked like me, so I didn’t think of myself as a “leader.” I saw trailblazers, groundbreakers, and frontrunners, and while those people were inspirational, they were also figure heads whose statuses felt unattainable. Far too often, we discount ourselves and think, “Oh, someone else will step up and I can support them.” Not often enough do we ask ourselves, “Isn’t it time I uplift my voice because there is worth in what I have to say?”. As pleasing as it might be to have others encourage us to step into a leadership role, we are the only ones who can empower ourselves to find value in what we can contribute.
The pathway to leadership in AIR is a choice to serve the community of professionals you have worked alongside your entire career. From Vice President to now President, and eventually Past President, my journey all started with a nomination but ultimately was a choice I made to serve each of you and this association. The commitment you make to serve on the Board is a commitment you choose to help your colleagues develop and grow through services AIR offers. As the Nominations and Elections Committee prepares the next slate of AIR leadership candidates, think about how your voice needs to be represented in the leaders who advocate for our profession. Think about nominating yourself and a colleague, then choose to serve because each of us brings something meaningful in how we’ll lead. Anaïs Nin proclaimed that “life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage”—which is actually my email signature line. This statement resonates so deeply with me, and I share it in every email correspondence I make because I hope it helps people think about choosing courageously to cultivate themselves and others through service.
I look forward to serving with you and, if I am so lucky, to have you lead our association.