While pursuing a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology, I had the opportunity to hold an internship position at the State Mental Hospital of Allentown, P. A. , and more recently, the John F. Kennedy Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center of Philadelphia. Much of my current leadership experience comes from managing group therapy sessions focused on current events, problem-solving, and life-planning for clients in these mental health facilities.
The tremendous diversity between group members at JFK due to cultural and ethnic differences was only compounded by the varying degrees of cognitive ability and mental illness diagnosed in all of them. In a room of 15 to 30 people for any given session, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I know from subsequent conversations with many group members that on my first introduction, many of them were thinking “how is this white girl from the suburbs, with her nice clothes, sheltered upbringing, and expensive education, EVER going to relate to us?! And yet, by the end of my time at both institutions, this sentiment had completely vanished. Although I was practically still a stranger, clients felt comfortable sharing intimate details of their lives with me. They respected and looked up to me, despite the fact that I was the youngest person in the room. They felt understood and accepted by me, though our socioeconomic positions were far more than disparate. One of my strongest qualities as a leader is adaptability.
Without sacrificing my true character, I am flexible in such a way that allows me to effectively communicate with and relate to individuals and groups from all walks of life regardless of our differences. I empathize with people, gaining their trust and acceptance. Although empathy is often used synonymously with sympathy or compassion, when I speak of it, I refer to the capacity for true understanding of another’s perspective and frame of mind. Once I see a situation from another’s viewpoint, I am better equipped to work on the same page with them toward setting goals and devising strategies for action.
I often spoke to the groups about my affiliation to each person not as a life-coach, but as a teammate and guide, collaborating with them to find solutions to presenting problems. Teamwork is an essential ingredient for success in many relationships. Therapeutic relationships, like business relationships, require two or more parties to work together toward mutually beneficial goals. Apathy, lack of awareness, and shame were typical barriers that stood in the way of solving problems within the groups.
I often served as a motivator for group members to confront problems that were uncomfortable to talk about and sometimes painful. Motivating people can be a difficult task. Encouragement, information, and support are three major elements I offer as a leader in order to stimulate motivation and drive in others. I also find that to successfully motivate people to work hard it is important that I set a pace and work hard as an example. I don’t believe that merely coercing another person into productivity is the ultimate goal of a good motivator.
To me, it says much more about someone’s leadership ability when he or she can inspire a person to want to be productive. I strive to be the type of leader who instills confidence and determination into people to help them reach their full potential. Studying business will be a complete change of direction for me, but I believe my graduate experience up to this point laid a solid foundation of leadership experience to build upon. I feel that training both inside and out of the classroom in group management, effective communication styles, and interventions has helped prepare me to be a compelling leader.
Undergraduate and graduate courses in Ethics gave me the opportunity to start thinking conscientiously about my actions, the actions of clients, and the actions of colleagues in both professional and personal settings. Although none of the credits I earned while studying Psychology at Immaculata University will transfer into an M. B. A. program, I am confident that the analytic, critical-thinking, and communication skills I learned will transfer with me as resources for success in business management.