“I honestly created some of the best memories I’ve had at Penn, and the program helped me realize that leadership comes in so many different contexts, not just in classrooms and clubs, but in everyday life too.” — Bonnie Li, W’25

Why did you want to participate in Leadership Compass?

I applied to the McNulty Leadership Compass hoping to gain a new community filled with leaders embodying a variety of leadership styles that I can learn from. By learning from each other’s strengths and weaknesses, I wanted to gain more confidence as a leader while helping those in the community grow as well.

What did you learn personally and professionally?

Personally, I learned my unique style of leadership and what role I typically find myself playing in teams. I learned how I can harness my personality and strengths to curate a leadership style that was unique and comfortable for me. I feel like often times when we are taught about how to be leaders, it can be a bit cookie-cutter and not necessarily applicable to everyone. However, through the Compass experience, I’ve seen first-hand how different leadership styles can shine in different situations.

Professionally, I was able to work with an executive coach in examining which areas of my life I could improve my leadership skills upon and formulating a strategy on the best way to approach challenges. Through the hands-on field work that we did throughout the year, we were able to test out different leadership strategies in the activities we were involved in on campus and really put the advice our coach gave us into practice.

What was your favorite aspect?

My favorite aspect was no doubt the community I have found on campus through this program. I felt like I was able to really reflect on my experiences and open up to them in deep, vulnerable conversations that are typically hard to have in most communities on campus.

Bonnie and teammates on the Gunks Traverse Intensive in Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve in New York

Plus, I was able to make a lot of new friends through the leadership intensives (the Gunks mountain biking trip was my favorite!) and bond through the end-of-year retreat (it’s hard not to when you’re all sleeping in sleeping bags in a cabin together).

What was the most challenging aspect?

I think the most challenging aspect was making sure that I was thinking consciously about my field work. I feel that it is sometimes easy to forget that you are actively thinking about changing something and it can be easy to fall into habits.

Did you apply things you learned to real-world situations (internships, clubs, etc.)?

The year that I was participating in the Leadership Compass also happened to be the year I created a mentorship committee for Wharton STEP (Successful Transition and Empowerment Program). I was able to directly apply the lessons and feedback I was learning through the program into my committee formation. Knowing how to effectively lead a committee and establish a strong team culture of trust and support was important to me, and I was able to bring challenges that I was facing to my group and executive coach, who all helped me through them. Now, I’m really happy with how the committee has grown, and the amount of change we have been able to bring to the STEP community with mentorship.

I feel that the program has improved the impact I have had in my extracurriculars and summer internships as well. I feel more confident in being able to lead a team, but also knowing when to take a step back and be a good team player, which has led to several kudos from coworkers during my internships.

Was Leadership Compass what you were expecting?

I feel that I have gained everything I had initially hoped to and so much more. I gained a community of new friends, several mentors, and was given the opportunity to critically think about how my leadership style affects others in positive ways.

The entire Leadership Compass group celebrates completion of the program. (Image: McNulty Leadership Program)

It is rare to find such a tight-knit community filled with strong leaders who are not afraid to be vulnerable in sharing their struggles. The support I have found from this community has been so valuable, and the experiences I’ve had have become some of my best memories at Penn.

— Meredith Stone

Posted: February 9, 2024

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