Courtney Spence on What It Means to Be a Leader in Non-Profit Executive Job

In Chapter 6 of 16 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit founder and executive Courtney Spence answers "What Does it Mean to Be a Leader in What You Do?" She defines being a leader as helping others find the best in themselves and using this to make the greatest contribution to the team and organization. By giving students responsibility and ownership in the organization, Spence finds she is creating a lasting support network that progressively helping make the organization and its people more effective. Spence is founder and executive director of Students of the World, a non-profit that partners with passionate college students to create new media to highlight global issues and the organizations working to address them. Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen:  What does it mean to be a leader in what you do?

Courtney Spence:  For me I think being a leader means helping other people find the best in themselves and helping other people feel that not only are they contributing to society in a great way but they’re contributing to the team, contributing to the vision, and really being able to see people grow in that role, and whether it’s our staff, whether it’s our students, whether it’s our interns, our board of directors, you know, the people that have really, you know, become part of the Students of the World family, I think there is certainly a feeling of responsibility to them to really tell them how integral they are to the organization but not through by just telling but by showing them, enabling them to really have ownership in where we are now and where we’re going.  You know, as we’re going through this process, it’s really – it’s going back to our alumni that participated eleven years ago, it’s going to our alumni that participated last year going to, you know, parents of students that participated.  

It’s really bringing in all of these different communities that this organization has touched and really trying to figure out how to bring them back into the fold and make them realize that they are a part of this greater network that is Students of the World.  So, you know, I’m very conscious of my role and all of that, and I think that, you know, it’s very easy sometimes to get caught up in your personal, ‘oh my gosh, I don’t have time, oh my gosh, I’m very stressed, oh my gosh, I have all of this to do’, but if you stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on others, I find that for me, I think I’ve become more effective as a leader, and I think that, all in all, the organization and the individuals that make it up are happier and more efficient, and it works.