Every year, The BB&T Leadership Institute works with hundreds of high-performing college and university students who participate in its Emerging Leaders Certification program. See what two groups of students learned about their leadership strengths, leadership weaknesses and communication skills in this intensive program.
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Nearly 25 interns in the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation(opens in a new tab) participated in the Emerging Leaders program last spring. The program teaches participants that beliefs drive behaviors, which produce results. Students discover new things about themselves during the program, in addition to learning leadership skills and strategies that they can use in their personal and academic lives.
During the program, participants complete the Leadership Preferences Inventory™ exercise and learn whether their leadership inclination is that of a coach, director or problem solver.
Each of these leadership styles tries to achieve the same purpose, but in different ways. A director leads with a focus on accomplishing goals. A coach concentrates on leading by building relationships and a problem solver leads by focusing on finding solutions.
Moniel Sanders, a senior who was studying media law and policy at Indiana University(opens in a new tab) in Bloomington, Indiana, came to the program believing she is a coach. But Sanders was surprised to learn she is, in fact, a director—and that some of her peers believed she has room for improvement.
“I learned from the other interns’ feedback that I have some characteristics that don’t allow me to be encouraging and empathetic,” said Sanders, who was an intern in the House Judiciary Committee. “When I’m working on projects with people, I need to give them the time they need. I can’t just run them over if they don’t meet the deadline.”
Sanders also discovered she can be more effective as a leader by softening her communications style. “I was told that I’m really direct, but now I’ll be more friendly when I say things,” said Sanders. “I’m going to say what I have to say, but I’ll say it better.”
In addition, Sanders gained insights about how she can improve as a team member. “I learned I need to be more aware of others. It’s not just about me. It’s about being part of a team and working together to solve a common goal and make the world a better place.”
Sanders expects her improved self-knowledge and enhanced skillset will be invaluable during the newest stage of her career. After graduating from Indiana University, she started working for AmeriCorps as a City Year member in a Chicago public school. “I can go into the public school with a new sense of self-awareness. I’m able to suppress my dominant characteristics or know when I need to execute differently.”
Like Sanders, Dwight Crawford, who was a legislative intern in the office of Congressman Steven Horsford (D-NV), discovered his leadership style preference is that of a coach. Crawford also learned from his peers that he needs to be more patient.
“My problem is I don’t give a caterpillar the time to become a butterfly,” he said. “I need to give people the time to develop. After all, everyone who is a butterfly was once a caterpillar.”
Crawford also realized he needs to better recognize others’ perspectives.
“As a leader, you have to understand that everyone does not see a project the way you do,” he said. “Some people are in it for themselves. Some people just focus on small pieces of a project. You need to know your team and understand how to help each of them be truly effective.”
A senior, Crawford is majoring in political science at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff(opens in a new tab). He said he’ll apply what he absorbed in Emerging Leaders in his role as president of the Tau Sigma chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. “The BB&T Leadership Institute showed me that leadership is more than just management and delegating tasks to your team. It’s also about learning people’s personalities and interests.”
After graduation, Crawford plans to either enroll in a master’s program or attend law school.
The Hispanic League
Like the 13 other students who received scholarships from The Hispanic League(opens in a new tab) and participated in Emerging Leaders last spring, Adyazbeth Barrientos Solis found the program an enthralling journey of self-discovery.
“You learn so much about yourself, especially things you don’t think about on a daily basis,” said Barrientos Solis, a senior who is majoring in biology at Guilford College(opens in a new tab) in Greensboro, North Carolina. “The program helps you reflect on who you are and how the little things you do can make a big difference in your life.”
By engaging in an inventory of her personal strengths and weaknesses, Barrientos Solis wasn’t surprised to hear that hope, gratitude and curiosity were among her strong points. However, she was a bit surprised by one of her lower scoring strengths: a lack of bravery.
“Because of the program, I’ll definitely stand up for myself and my beliefs more,” she said.
Barrientos Solis also gained some important communication skills. She learned, for instance, how to best respond when a person shares good news, so her response helps build a strong relationship with the person.
The Emerging Leaders program teaches students that there are four ways to reply when someone shares a piece of good news, but only one of these replies helps build positive relationships. Some people ignore the news. Others turn the good news into bad news. And some simply change the conversation. Being an active listener and asking questions about the news shows the person you care, said Barrientos Solis. “You make that person feel good, and it helps you build relationships.”
A freshman who is planning to major in psychology and Spanish at Salem College(opens in a new tab) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Gregoria Arreola-Meza came to Emerging Leaders fully believing that she knew how to be a leader.
“I didn’t,” she confessed.
Arreola-Meza knew she excelled at “going straight for a goal,” she said.
But Arreola-Meza also learned that her leadership style could be improved. During the Leadership Preferences Inventory exercise in which participants discuss the strengths and potential pitfalls of other participants as though they are not in the room, Arreola-Meza discovered that some of the Hispanic League scholars said, in reference to the role of being the leader of a group, “It’s okay to take action, but it’s not okay to take all the action. One must always keep a balance within a group.”
The exercise prompted Arreola-Meza to reevaluate her leadership style. As a consequence, she knows she must work more collaboratively in a team setting and let others provide more input.
Arreola-Meza said the Emerging Leaders program will help her in academics and in empowering the Hispanic community. “Thanks to Emerging Leaders, I’ll work better as a teammate in school. And I’ll be able to represent the Hispanic community better and be the best leader I can be in my community.”
Like the other students who were interviewed for this article, Arreola-Meza recommends that students take Emerging Leaders. “You should really expect the unexpected,” she said. “You are going to learn so many things in this program.”
Kimberly Gryszko, Poquoson City Public Schools
"You learn so much about yourself, especially things you don’t think about on a daily basis. The program helps you reflect on who you are and how the little things you do can make a big difference in your life." Barrientos Solis, Hispanic League scholar
By Jack Rosenberger
Photography courtesy Kevin Ortiz, The BB&T Leadership Institute
How to Train as a Program Facilitator for Your Campus
Are you interested in becoming an external facilitator of the Emerging Leaders program on your campus? The BB&T Leadership Institute hosts a summer training program for faculty and staff from partner colleges and universities.
For more information, please contact Student Leadership Programs Manager Brittany Brown: