The Joy in Leadership

By Monica Zollinger

When I was twelve years old, I was called to be the class president of a group of girls in our church. We had planned an activity and I had spent a lot of time and energy preparing to make it happen. I had even made a picture that included all of the girls.

When it was almost time for the activity, I was told that the girls wanted to do something else instead. I was pretty upset and felt that since I was in charge, they could just do it anyway. I was outside by our trampoline looking at the big picture I had made of the girls and had the humbling thought, “Is this about you or is it really about them?” We ended up doing the activity that they wanted to do and everyone was happy.

The memory of this experience came to me as I was trying to figure out what obstacle I had overcome in my life. It was overcoming my ego for a more productive style of leadership. I feel like we are constantly learning and so I never really overcome the obstacles. I just keep working on them and getting better at stumbling over them.

Mark experienced climbing Mount Whitney. He said it felt more like a goal than an obstacle. Looking at a situation as a “goal achieved” instead of an “obstacle overcome” helped me realize that we overcome obstacles as we accomplish our goals. In pursuit of his goal, Mark overcame several obstacles—acquiring the right equipment, losing weight and getting in shape, learning about the trails and practicing on shorter hikes, and so forth.

Looking back at the experience I learned as a class president, I realized that overcoming my ego and focusing on others helped me become a better leader. This leadership helped me reach some of my greatest achievements. The leadership qualities I developed and the positions held allowed me to serve others.

I started out helping in my son’s classroom when he started kindergarten. I joined the PTA, continuing to serve in several different capacities. I became the vice president for San Bernardino County and was able to attend a national convention.

I worked in scouting as a committee chair and den leader. I went to Woodbadge training and staffed a couple of years. I became the director of NYLT and cub day camp and a roundtable commissioner.

In college I went to work doing manual labor research out of telephone books and figuring out how to write letters and reports for my boss. Later I was involved with putting on an antique car show and planning those events. I became the office manager for the lady I started working for when she started her own business.

I volunteered at the library organizing books for the Friends of the Library so that I could get first pick at the books that were donated. I became the FOL President for a few years and organized movies for the kids.

Each time I received an award, the realization dawned on me (reinforced) that I’m not there for the awards and recognition, but I did what I did for the kids involved. It comes back to my twelve-year-old president experience where I truly learned that leadership is not about me, but about who I represent and how I am helping others. It also helped me see how I can encourage others to work together and do what they can do best in order to be a part of a great team.


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Monica Zollinger
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