by guest blogger Nicole Gittleman

Leadership is a roller coaster. Life is a roller coaster. Just when you feel comfortable moving ahead…BAM! You’re dropping 40 feet downwards, making a hard right turn, and then flying back up 100 feet into the sky. So strap in, because just like a roller coaster, leadership is for sure NOT walk in the park!

Hellloooo down there!

TMNicolebMy senior year of high school, I ran for Student Body President. It seemed too easy in my mind – I was the most qualified and had a lot of friends who supported me. When elections had finished, I was called in the Dean of Students office. Toni Marie calmly told me I had lost the election. This was the first time I had ever heard her use her most famous catch phrase. “’Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it’ so don’t let this stop you!” My 90% reaction included a lot of tears. I will never forget this day. I was heartbroken.

How low can you go? Can you go down low?

Flash forward to my junior year of college. I had been a part of my sorority’s executive board for 3 years, and I was the only sister who had been a member of the executive board for that long. This was an impressive accomplishment. But this year, I didn’t make the cut. What happened? Was I not good enough anymore? Have I changed? Do people not like me anymore? Millions of questions run through your head when you fail to reach a goal, when you lose. This was an even lower low on my leadership roller coaster.

Up, Up, and Away!

Roller Coaster at SunsetAs my second semester as a junior began, my roller coaster began to peak. In January, I was elected president of my university’s Panhellenic, the governing council of all the sororities on our campus. I was given more responsibility overseeing 7 sororities than I would have had with any position on my chapter executive board. Being President of Panhellenic has taught me lessons and improved my leadership more than any position on my chapter executive board would have taught me as as a veteran with 3 years experience on it already.


10171134_10203324701459319_209851220_nOn April 3rd, my leadership roller coaster came full circle. On Toni Marie’s birthday (my Dean of Students in high school who let me cry and whine all over her desk), I was elected Student Government President of my entire university. Wow. This was the highest of my highs and made up for the lowest of my lows. Why is it special that I got elected on her birthday? Toni Marie lost a battle with cancer in 2012 but not before she inspired thousands of young people to face adversity with her application of the 90/10 rule of responding to challenges with courage. Toni Marie was truly looking over me that day, and I felt her presence full force. No matter how low my leadership roller coaster may have swooped down, no matter how upside down it may have been, it still swooped back upwards.

What I’ve learned from my leadership ups and downs:

  • Sometimes effort doesn’t equal results: Hard work is not always the promise to success. A large amount of effort put into a goal doesn’t always achieve that goal. Often, our toughest times teach us our best life lessons.
  • Everybody needs a support system: No matter how important you are, or how terrible you feel, you need to be able to talk to someone and react to someone about your highs and lows. It’s natural and necessary!
  • That random inspiration tweet you saw is right: When you’re cranky and low and you see “everything happens for a reason” on your newsfeed from some girl who just got dumped, do you want to scream like I do? Sadly, she’s right. Sometimes we don’t reach certain goals because there are better plans for us in sight!
  • Believe the people believe in you: Accept a compliment! Sometimes as leaders we feel that if we accept praise, we seem cocky. We need supporters and we need to be supporters in return.
  • A true leader learns to embrace the ride: There is so much to learn from failure, and a true leader knows to take advantage of all situations and scenarios to better herself or himself in the future. How can we enjoy the highs of life if we don’t know the lows?. Take risks, accept the fact that life and leadership will never been a straight path, and enjoy the heart-wrenching dips down and the breathtaking swoops upwards.

But most off all – HOLD ON. There’s always an upswing around the corner.



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