The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Rockefeller Leadership Fellows Winter Retreat

RLF Class of 2017

Kevin Donahoe, Class of 2017 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow (Photo by May Nguyen).

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During the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows Winter Retreat, the Fellows engaged in a very substantive discussion on the core lessons of On Leadership by John W. Gardner. We were divided up into groups of four or five and took turns presenting summaries of all the chapters of Gardner’s book. One of the consistent themes across several presentations and following discussions was the link between context and attributes of leadership. We discussed that while there are numerous attributes that categorize good leaders, different situations call for different leadership attributes, and, in the end of the day, we cannot always control the context or situations that we will face as leaders. To me, this point heavily resonated with Jay Davis’ idea of adapting leadership style based on the current situation and needs of the group.

Another key concept of the student presentations and discussions was power. Though the Fellows established the differences between leadership and power, we discussed that effective leadership requires the appropriate balance of exercising power, and empowering constituents. Fellow Alex Chivers introduced a phenomenal point that it is important for leaders to recognize where they get their power from – whether it’s formal power from their position, social power obtained from respect from their peers, or power from any other sources. This recognition helps leaders appropriately align their thoughts and actions.

Additionally, Deputy Director Sadhana Hall led the Fellows in a brainstorming discussion on how to effectively and respectfully ask for a letter of recommendation. Sadhana emphasized the importance of making the request as easy as possible for the recommender, through sending an email with an attached job description, resume, and an example recommendation if you possess one, providing a one sentence description of exactly why you want the position, and telling the recommender that you are willing to do anything to help them in the recommendation process. Furthermore, following up with the recommender whether you were accepted or not is a crucial component to the process out of respect.

Lastly, we looked ahead to the RLF recruitment process, establishing our hopes for the new cohort, and for the process itself. Recruitment Coordinators, Nicole Castillo and Mary Sieredzinski, led the Fellows in a conversation regarding what personal attributes we are looking for in new, dear Fellows. Together, we all came up with the following goal statement for the new cohort:

“The 2017-2018 RLF cohort will be diverse and committed to each other and this program. They should be curious, lighthearted, and thoughtful, as well as embody diversity in demography, interests, and personality.”

The Winter Retreat set the stage for a phenomenal term ahead for RLF!

Written by Kevin Donahoe, Class of 2017 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow

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