Living Your Legacy

Posted on

By Vikki Brown, Leadership Coach at San José State University, Management and Leadership Coach at V.A. Brown Consulting

vikkiWhen the newest Braven Fellows arrived at the first meeting of the Accelerator at San José State, we gave them a fill-in-the-blank.

_____ is why I lead.

The exercise was aimed to help them tell their stories; to fill in the blank and start living their legacy. But I quickly realized it would be a defining moment in my own life.

I was there to be a mentor to the Fellows and I was already inspired. They were talented students from all over, poised to launch meaningful careers. They came from San Jose. They came from California. They came from as far away as Taiwan and Russia. They came to become leaders. They didn’t step into the Accelerator for the credits—they came to change the world.

And they knew that the world needed changing: students who had been abused as children were striving to become social workers so they could fix the system. One young woman wanted justice for foster children and had already begun with the state legislature to make that happen. These young people were here for someone other than themselves. They took their life experiences and saw opportunities.

This semester, it’s my job to help them grow as leaders—so I told them the two steps I believe it takes to get there. The first is to know yourself. The second is to know your people. On that sunny Saturday afternoon, the Braven Fellows started to get to know themselves and each other. They wrote their personal narratives, and as they shared their stories, they began to connect with each other. I felt the energy rise as they realized that there was so much to be shared. Their stories were different but their goals were the same—to take what they’ve learned and make a difference.

Each of us has a story. The question is: what do we do with it? When we use our stories to truly understand ourselves, several things happen. We begin to connect with people on a deeper level. We begin to see how our words and actions affect our relationships with others. This allows us to make better choices. Simply put, our story allows us to get ourselves out of the way and begin to know our people. When that starts to happen, leaders are born.

I will spend the fall semester with these young people, not only as their coach but as their student. What I experienced on that Saturday became part of my story, part of my legacy. And as of that day, Braven is why I lead.