Making the Right Decision

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By Mussab Ali, Braven Rutgers – Newark Fellow, Student at Rutgers University – Newark

Mussab at the HackathonIt is not simply the actions we take, but the experiences that transpire in our lifetimes and form the basis of our leadership qualities.

Early on in middle school, I was intelligent but unpopular. I was quiet and often kept to myself, but I began developing leadership skills through that introspection and self-reflection. I became a strong and confident person, and my peers and teachers took notice. I was often elected into leadership positions, such as class president, and my peers always turned to me to help them reach their hopes and dreams. In class, several teachers recall me not just being the first one to answer a question but also helping those around me. In almost every job I’ve had, I’ve learned soaked up everything like a sponge and retained as much as I could.

In my life, I have always spoken up against injustice and been a friend to those who needed one. I am not perfect, however—my integrity is not flawless, my record for punctuality is not pristine, and my actions do sometimes contradict with my ideals. But I have also become someone who can be looked up to and someone who knows his self-worth. I may not be the perfect leader, but I am a leader nevertheless.

Mussab and his cohortOne challenge I faced in leadership was right before the ninth grade. I attended a STEM-based summer program (that was three years long) for rising 8th graders to rising sophomores. At the end of each summer session, there was a competition called the Proyecto Bowl, named after the program itself: Proyecto Science. After leading my team to a blowout win as rising 8th graders, it was expected that we would repeat as champions. I was the captain of my team—I thought we would win it all and I wasn’t shy to announce it to everyone else. The day of the competition, our team had our presentation down like clockwork and answered every question with ease. We wouldn’t find out who won for a few days, but we were feeling confident.

My leadership would be tested before that day arrived; soon after the presentation, two of my team members got into a fight with members of other teams. I was given a choice by the program leader: I could choose to take whatever prize my team had potentially won without those two members or be disqualified altogether. I initially voted to win without the two members, but after seeing the strong support my team members had for one another, I elected for us to be disqualified together. As much as my inner greed wanted me to accept the prize, I chose disqualification.

A leader isn’t one who makes the right choices all the time; rather it is he who is able to make the right decision when it counts. My story speaks to the truth of overcoming an obstacle and becoming stronger from it. It is my faith in myself throughout it all that makes me the unique leader that I am.