SCP Leadership Academy 2014: Participant’s Reflections
The 2014 SCP Leadership Academy (LA) was held in conjunction with the SCP Executive Board midyear meeting at the 2014 Counseling Psychology Conference in Atlanta, with 5 students and 5 early career professionals coming together to further develop their leadership potential in a multicultural context. In this third iteration of the Leadership Academy, faculty guided participants through discussions of what it means to be a leader in SCP with particular emphasis on understanding the influence of intersecting identities on leadership development. The participants met with and observed the SCP Executive Board’s interactions during the midyear meeting and processed their observations. In our discussion of paths to leadership, faculty shared personal stories of involvement and service. These leaders shared successes, challenges, and even failures as a means of encouraging participants to persevere as they pursue ways to enact their passion and provide service to the field, to valued communities and to society. This year’s LA faculty are: Barry Chung and Julia Phillips (Co-Chairs), Sandra Shullman, Melba Vasquez, Cynthia Guzman, and Heidi Hutman. Following are the reflections of some of our participants. Please be sure to join us at the 2014 APA Convention in Washington, DC, for programs related to the Leadership Academy!
A favorite supervisor of mine once told me that the majority of thework in psychotherapy happens in-between the sessions. I feel as if the same sentiment could be said of my experience in the 2014 Leadership Academy. As I write this reflection, somewhere between our initial meeting in March and our subsequent meeting in August in Washington, D.C., I am struck by just how much I’ve been thinking about the experience that I had: getting to know and collaborating with such a diverse group of fellow participants, being mentored by esteemed leaders in our field, discovering more about our individual leadership styles, and working together to better understand all of the many aspects that make up effective leadership. It was like a seed was planted; that seed has now grown into a deeper understanding of how my various identities – my race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, gender, sexual orientation, and abilities – have shaped my leadership style. It occurs to me that, as a white cisgender male from a middle class background, I have probably been afforded more opportunities to practice the skills often associated with being a leader than many of my fellow participants. On the other hand, as a gay man, there have likely been times that barriers to positions of leadership have been placed before me.
The experience was poignant and influential. It allowed me time to reflect on my history as a leader, the various factors that contributed to my leadership style, my strengths as a leader, as well as areas for growth. Moreover, the participants and faculty were able to share some of the difficulties that we have all faced because of our various, often minority, identities. We all walked away with a better understanding of each other’s triumphs and trials. Finally, I was reminded that we all carry with us the potential to lead. Whether in our families, our communities, our schools, our organizations, or at different levels of government, there is a need for all types of leaders. Thus, the importance of the role that the Leadership Academy can play in identifying, developing, and nurturing our field’s next generation of leaders cannot be overstated.
It is only fair to describe my Leadership Academy training experience as transformative. I had never attended a Division 17 conference in the past, or APA for that matter, and I worried about feeling like an outsider as I entered the meeting room of the Leadership Academy training at the Atlanta conference. All of the participants appeared so impressive and accomplished, and I struggled with a serious case of the imposter syndrome. Fast forward through introductions, an orientation to the structure of the Division 17 governance and Executive Board, and personal reflections from our amazing faculty, I realized that I was less different from others than I thought. Almost every participant identified experiencing the imposter syndrome, and we bonded about our collective self-doubt and excitement. The self-doubt lessened and the excitement intensified as we mingled with Executive Board Members and faculty through the course of the training. I felt astounded by the privilege of sitting in the room with leaders such as Melba Vasquez, Barry Chung, Julia Phillips, and Sandy Shulman (not to mention our wonderful ECP and student faculty members!), as well as of conversing with prominent leaders in Division 17. The experience was inspiring and humbling; I felt honored by the welcoming spirit of the counseling psychology professionals who showed interest in our development.
On the last day of the training, the LA students and ECP’s had the task of putting together a 5-minute presentation for the LA symposium during the conference. As we brainstormed ideas, I noticed that each person contributed a unique perspective and that our individual ideas merged together to create a collective whole. From this experience I gleaned that leadership is not a solitary activity; it is the product of listening, talking, caring, and respecting. It is also an initiative based in a sense of responsibility to one’s community. With these new insights, I began to think of myself as a leader without the fear and doubt that had once accompanied my desire to pursue leadership roles. I now embrace my natural skills and hope to further my leadership capacity through additional training and conversations. Thank you so much, Division 17 and Leadership Academy Faculty, for helping me to envision myself as a leader in counseling psychology and beyond!