The beginning of a leadership journey
The path to becoming a leader does not always start in something grand – it requires a starting point that often starts small. It can start with siblings, friends, groups, school clubs, and the workplace.
Camille Cruz, a participant of the Leadership and Management for Non-Profit Professionals fellowship program, discovered her leadership potential at a young age. She would create imaginary clubs where she would assign rules and tasks for the imaginary members including her stuffed toys. As the leader of the club, she would organize to make sure that everything is in order from the set-up to the schedules. Through this, she was able to learn her characteristics that would soon be a fiber of her workplace ethics.
It was then in college that she found the deeper meaning of being a leader. In her junior year, she took a Community Organizing and Community Development class where she was exposed firsthand to the realities of far-flung areas. They immersed themselves with the farming community of Plaridel, Quezon, and understood the lived experiences of the farmers. For a month, they stayed within the homes of the farmers, learned about their realities, and implemented projects to uplift the community. As they reach two weeks of immersion, Camille was not convinced by the progress of their project. She stepped up and took the initiative to lead the group and plan ahead. Wholeheartedly, she embraced the responsibilities of becoming the leader. The schedules and agenda were laid out by her to streamline the groups’ activities.
In this immersion, Camille saw the value and importance of working in the development sector. To maximize her experience in the sector, she applied as an intern in an NGO for a while. It was then a realization of the path that she would take after her undergraduate studies.
Merits and challenges of being a leader
Her years of experience in Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, an NGO promoting good governance and ethical leadership in the country, has led her to encounter several ups and downs. But at the end of the day, the learning experience she takes with her is nothing compared to the challenges.
In 2017, she was tasked to lead a video series featuring three local chief executives and their best practices and programs. Included in the project was Del Carmen, Siargao where they shot footage and interviewed key officials for the video feature. Unfortunately, as they wrapped up the project, a strong typhoon enveloped the island town which made it impossible for them to leave for another town. This unforeseen event made their schedules a blur as they were stranded for two days. It was her first time to experience plans not happening as scheduled. What made it even memorable was that it was her birthday when they were stranded.
As they finished the project and saw the product of their hardships, it was a fulfilling moment for them that wept their exhaustion. She credits its success to everyone in her team who played their part in successfully completing the project. Despite being the most challenging experience, it made her a better leader.
Dealing with burnout and taking care of oneself
Despite challenges, burnouts, and fatigue along the way, Camille looks back on her whys. For her, even small contributions to improving society will make the world a better place. Working in the development sector is her way of fulfilling this duty to make a difference in society.
Her hobbies are her major source of happiness outside work. On dull hours, she spends time gaming and watercolor painting to free her mind. Most of all, her dogs and stress relievers, Mochi, Donut, and Cookie would accompany her whenever she is finished from work. Understanding oneself is also a way for her to take care of herself. She plans out her schedules ahead and observes a work and life balance. Knowing her limits is also key to preventing burnout so she will know when to pause and to continue.
The journey in the LMNP Fellowship Program
As an LMNP participant, she thanks the program for the activities and lessons for engaging the participants to self-reflect on who they are as a person or as a leader. It was also an opportunity to improve her responsibilities as a leader in the non-profit sector where they are reminded to consider ideas of different stakeholders in handling a project. Her major takeaway from the course is the importance of the involvement of members and stakeholders in proposing and implementing a project.
One of the skills she acquired from LMNP was learning about the financial aspects of working in an NGO. This is an important skill for NGO workers, especially since most projects are guided by funders where financial management will matter. It was a valuable lesson that would equip her in future projects that require proper financial management.
A call to her fellow young leaders
In any leadership journey, the starting point is for each young leader to find whether in family, friends, school, or work. Like Camille, she started small even in her group of friends, school, and her current role in the development sector. She believes that no matter where the starting point is, growth will occur along the way.
Growing up, getting out of her comfort zones shaped her into being a leader. With her experience, she found that doing so would pave the way for growth. With this, she leaves young leaders with this kind of lesson, “Wag kayong matakot mag-explore. Wag kayong matakot to go outside of your comfort zones. Wag kayong matakot to express kung ano ‘yung nasa mind niyo. Kung may ideas kayo, go for it.”
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