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who do you think you are?

May 11, 2017


My leadership minor at Virginia Tech required I complete a personal assessment regarding how I see myself as a member of the Virginia Tech community and as a leader in my profession. Below is the transcript from my Capstone Leadership Assessment in the spring of 2013. 


As we progress through the steps of our life that help us to mature we have many influential experiences that affect the way we make decisions. Modern architecture and ethical design is a huge platform on which my leadership is based. Becoming a representative for a client's vision and being a good steward to the environment is a large responsibility, and the demand for forward thinking and ethical leadership has played a significant part in my collegiate development. 


Outside of architecture, leadership has also become a form of self evaluation for me. One of my main influences has been a small book titled The Citizen Leader. It has influenced not only how I see leadership through a potential professional setting, but also through personal reflection (found here). The question that he asks the readers is 'How do I want to be in the world?' I find that this question repeatedly inspires me not only to evaluate my leadership style, but also my design style. I believe they both go hand in hand, and my decisions in these fields usually overlap in some way. 


So how do I want to be in the world?

I hope that people see me as an influential, happy and dedicated part of their lives, and that I am a positive influence to my community and environment. This is partly due to my belief that architecture should be in part a gift to the built environment of a community, and that I have the responsibility to make sure that happens. I believe that through thoughtful design and leadership I can make an improvement to the built environment. I believe that I can also improve my relationships with my peers, teams, friends, and family. Lastly, I believe that I can improve myself through my values, strengths, and even weaknesses.


My personal philosophy of leadership is centered around three core areas:

1. Character ​

2. Contribution ​

3. Community




1. Character - Code of Ethics 


I believe that Leadership must have a good foundation - Character. To function as a leader, one must first have a strong process of application that is respected by peers. Architecture has taught me how to examine at different scales, and I believe that Leadership starts at the smallest scale - the individual. The individual must be centered in her beliefs to become a strong leader. Character is the core of the individual and shows through every action.

I. Commitment ​

​Commitment is the most important value that a leader needs to possess. The level of commitment from a leader shows dedication, and also serves as an example for what is expected from the team. I believe that there is a direct correlation between a leader's commitment to a project, and the team's commitment to the project as well as to the leader.

II. Integrity

​Another important value is integrity. The meaning behind actions, the honestly with which one deals with team members, and the virtues that a leader possesses are all an important part of making decisions to reach a goal. A false story of success will not increase the respect or satisfaction that you receive.

III. Self-Value

​Valuing yourself is also an important part of positive leadership. The value I place on myself allows me to have confidence in my actions, and the strength to push myself to accomplish new things.

IV. Self-Examination

True self value however, can only come through an honest examination of yourself. Self examination is important, because if I cannot honestly evaluate and improve myself, I will not be able to ​improve my team. Understanding your self worth, and being able to improve upon that is a key component of accomplishment and improvement in any setting.

V. Imagination

​Creativity and the capacity to be innovative are some of the most desirable traits for designers in today's society. Leaders are also charged with the responsibility to find new, efficient, and creative ways to solve problems.



 2. Contribution - The Value of a Team


I believe that Leadership is a team effort. A great leader cannot exist without an effective team, and a great team cannot exist without an effective leader. A team is a valuable part of every project (especially in architecture), and I believe that a leader can do their best work when they collaborate and draw upon the strengths of their team members. However, a leader must do and understand certain things to be a positive and effective leader.

I was told to buy a textbook my first year at Virginia Tech called the Student Leadership Challenge, which written by two people who's names were incredibly confusing. What they were saying was not. They listed five steps geared towards improving yourself and improving the ability of your team to succeed. ​

After reading this book and writing numerous response papers on the subject, I learned that I could lead hardworking teams by making sure that I understood the following five goals and their importance for every team leader. By following the steps and attuning myself to effective leadership practices, I learned just how well a team can succeed. 

The five values are listed below:

I. Model the way

​1. Find your voice by clarifying your personal values.

​2. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values

II. Inspire a shared vision

​1. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling activities.

2. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.

III. Challenge the process

1. Search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow , and improve.

2. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes. ​

IV. Enable others to act

1. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust

2. Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion ​


V. Encourage the heart

1. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence

2. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community



 3. Community - The Working Landscape


My mother has taught me from a very young age that we are stewards to our environment and caretakers of the place that we occupy. This can be expanded on in so many ways, both through architecture and through leadership. The Community is the largest scale in which we operate as architects. For me, community really addresses the question of how I want to be in the world. I understand my place in the world as a steward to a community, and I have a responsibility to be a good contributor to a working landscape.

The term was created by Peter Cannavo, the author of The Working Landscape. This book describes the reasons for the regression of the state of the environment. A working landscape describes places - not by their characteristics that exist right now - but by the characteristics of a place over the span of time.

Cannavo defines place as the opposite of an object. It is the physical, conceptual, and enduring characteristics that make up an essential human practice. Place for him is a dynamic relationship instead of something you stand on. This dynamic interaction with Place must find a balance between development and preservation. A working landscape is one that is constantly molded by the people that occupy it.

As a leader in architecture, I believe that this is the most important component of my personal philosophy in relation to a work environment. I can be a strong leader and a positive presence in my community by understanding and remembering the attributes of a place that are beneficial, and working to improve those that are detrimental. This is the underlying concept of why I believe architecture is so important, and why architects must be more attuned to their leadership through the profession. Even when I start work this summer as a lowly entry level architect, I will still know that my actions are influencing the built environment and creating and shaping the spaces that we live in. 



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