Amber Cintosun, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology
What does it mean to be a leader? Is it the possession of the position of president or director of a multitude of organizations? Or is leadership a quieter accomplishment, something less overt yet much more impactful? To me, leadership is about having a positive influence on the people around you. The quality of a leader is measured not simply by the positions one holds or the certifications one collects, but by the support and empowerment one provides to others. A leader seeks to enhance others’ lives. This may be achieved through a drive to improve, a commitment to group membership, and an effort to inspire.
First, a great leader espouses an unwavering drive to improve. In my leadership roles, I continually seek to expand and build upon my performance to have a more positive impact on group members. For instance, as vice president of University of Toronto Peer Tutoring (UTPT), I am always searching for ways to improve the learning experience for our tutees. Last year, I implemented a review program to elicit feedback from tutees through online surveys and personal interviews. We have since enacted a number of changes this year to benefit our tutees, such as group learning sessions and more frequent office hours. In this manner, taking leadership to improve involves self-assessment, problem-solving, and initiative. As vice president of the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology Student Union (LMPSU), I noticed that many junior students felt confused and out of touch with the LMP community. In turn, I suggested a peer mentorship system to solve this problem. This year, LMPSU implemented this system to very positive reviews from mentees. In this manner, I use my drive to improve in order to innovate and achieve greater community member satisfaction.
Next, a leader should be committed to group membership, being a group member first and a leader second. Essential to this is listening to other group members and encouraging them to share their ideas. I believe that you can learn something from anyone, whether the person is a junior executive or a seasoned supervisor: each and every group member has a unique perspective to offer. As team captain of my intramurals table tennis team, I organized team meetings before and after tournaments to encourage teammates to discuss our accomplishments and our shortfalls. As team captain, I welcomed criticism so that I could shift strategies if necessary to make our team the best that it could be. Being a group member first is also about collaboration and supporting one’s teammates. During my research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), this meant taking the initiative to help other researchers with their experiments when research equipment and time were limited. Thus, leadership involves being an active group member who listens to and supports one’s teammates.
Finally, as a leader, my ultimate goal is to inspire others to improve and to be leaders themselves. This involves encouraging team members and generating excitement for innovation. For instance, I am graduating this year and leaving UTPT, but I am encouraging our future leaders to grow beyond UTPT’s current accomplishments. This year, I collaborated with a professor about the possibility of a research opportunity program (ROP) for tutors to design new technological techniques to help ECO100 students. I will not be able to implement this program in my final months as vice president, but I mentored a junior executive in this area to empower her to expand our club into new territories. In addition, I also try to be a role model to inspire my group members to improve. This is especially important in my roles as a tutor and mentor. In these roles, I not only provide aid and advice, but I also strive to set a positive example to encourage my mentees to espouse constructive qualities and improve themselves. Hence, an integral aspect of leadership is the promotion of growth in others.
In conclusion, the quality of a leader is measured through his or her accomplishments for others. A great leader collaborates with group members to improve, support, and inspire. My growth as a team leader can be measured by the growth in my teams. Whether it is advocating for student satisfaction or empowering a new leader, the most meaningful aspect of leadership for me is to see the positive impact I have had on others. If I can encourage a struggling teammate or make a tutee’s life a little bit easier, then I know I have done my job as a leader.