This week of the CAUSE Leadership Academy was a whirlwind of new and exciting learning opportunities in the office of State Treasurer John Chiang. As I have come to learn over the last few weeks, the key to success is being able to ask questions. Everyone in the office, from the interns, to the staffers, to the Treasurer himself, is interested in asking questions and learning.
Thus, after a refreshing 4th of July weekend, I was not surprised when I was asked to present a report on growth in job employment and compensation in Texas and California to the Treasurer on my first day back into the office. While I was busy with my heart beating out of my chest with nervousness and excitement, the Treasurer did what he has taught everyone in the office to do: ask questions and learn.
That is why I did my own share of asking throughout my presentation- learning exactly why the Treasurer was so concerned with employment data and why the comparison between Texas and California was so important. Because it would help him understand what sectors required the most attention and understand why companies were moving their headquarters across states. When my presentation was over, despite the fact that I was giving the report, it ultimately felt as if I were the one being taught.
Later that week, the feeling was once again confirmed when I attended an event with the California Conservation Corps. The Corps was celebrating its 40th anniversary and many important figures had come to speak. I talked and asked various members about their choice to join the Corps. The variety of answers I received were absolutely enlightening. I was being taught once again by asking questions.
Then, to close the event, the Corps had arranged a number of speakers, who offered their own words of wisdom. Secretary of State Alex Padilla spoke first, emphasizing the importance of voting, and helping others to realize the importance of voting, something that speaks to the core of what CAUSE stands for. In his words, “All this work to propose legislation…it doesn’t mean a thing without votes.”
Then, Treasurer Chiang shared his remarks. He spoke of leadership, telling us that “You are the leaders. You excel in your fields and you learn from these experiences, so that one day you may lead. We look to you to replace the people up here, like Secretary Padilla, or Senator de Leon, or myself.”
This academy places emphasis on leadership development, which is evident from the program’s name and the program’s mission. However, what exactly constitutes leadership has always been a nebulous concept for me, although it is getting clearer with each passing day.
Working for someone who is currently in the running for Governor has given me an understanding of at least one form of leadership. From what I have seen and heard, it is clear to me that leadership, at least for Treasurer Chiang, is about courage. The courage to get onstage and to speak to large crowds of Corps members, the courage to sit down with an intern and ask them questions, and the courage to even dare to dream that you can one day become Governor are all things that I have witnessed in my four short weeks. Through witnessing, I am intent on learning, so that one day, I may find myself lucky enough to be in that same position.