The road to leadership

By: Serena Cassidy

Leadership is a journey – at least that's what I've read in the literature. The journey can be enlightening, as long as you know where you are in your career/ personal development, and where you plan to go.

I've noticed that knowing when to say no is an important part of the learning journey. This is something that can't be learned from textbooks on leadership or from higher education – but from hands on practical experience in the workplace.

As a new public servant, I initially tried to become involved in every corporate activity, project and workshop that interested me. I wanted to participate in a broad array of corporate activities, in order to learn more about the organization, network with my colleagues, and learn more about government in general.

While it is important to take part in organizational initiatives, I have learned that there are both successes and challenges to be realized by such participation. At some point, I decided to choose a few key initiatives while letting involvement in others go.

Fortunately, this occurs naturally in some cases as projects reach their conclusion. Challenges involve managing not only one's individual time, but coordinating the information and activities relating to each activity/ committee. Participation on committees often extends past the actual scheduled event, usually in the form of some sort of knowledge transfer and exchange between colleagues.

However, there are many benefits to be realized such as: networking with colleagues, both intra – and – inter departmentally; learning about the nuances of how the organization actually works, and gaining hands on experience with corporate policy. In effect, leadership skills are developed by constant practice and education, it's important to balance education with reflection on skills learned in order to grow as a leader.

So that's the story of how I've learned to say no. Even though there are still many more interesting opportunities to participate in various initiatives, I've realized the importance of being able to 'see the forest through the trees'. That is, focusing on the work of the here and now, in order to reach future goals.

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