Little Moments - Big Leadership Lessons with Whitney Edwards-Roberson '21

"Little Moments – Big Leadership Lessons" with Whitney Edwards-Roberson '21

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Transcript for "Little Moments – Big Leadership Lessons" with Whitney Edwards-Roberson '21

Whitney EDWARDS-Roberson '21: So, I think, it's especially at VMI, a lot of little things that lead into the bigger concepts of leading. So, I think that whether it was on the soccer field, or whether it was during the ratline or in the classroom, all of those little moments, maybe it was 10 or 15 moments, minutes, where I was kind of thrown into the fire to lead those moments definitely helped to direct me into a path of where I know I can be a successful leader I know how I can lead people not only dealing with their strengths but also helping them grow as a person.

DEREK PINKHAM: Welcome to the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics Leadership Journey Podcast!

EMILY COLEMAN: This podcast aims to share leadership stories from our VMI Corps of Cadets and high-profile leaders who visit The Center for Leadership & Ethics and VMI Post. We are on this journey with you.

PINKHAM: Hi, I’m Derek Pinkham,

COLEMAN: And I'm Emily Coleman; we are your hosts of the podcast.

We caught up with Whitney Roberson in the PX to chat about her VMI leader journey. Whitney is a History major from Chesapeake, VA. She is the captain of the women's soccer team, President of the Promaji club, an investigator for the CEA (Cadet Equity Association), and the Vice President of SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Committee). She plans to go to graduate school after VMI.  We discussed how her views on leadership have changed since the Ratline and how VMI has prepared her to lead in diverse settings. She talked about the 'little moments' that change you and teach you how to lead.

PINKHAM: And without further delay, we give you Whitney Roberson.

Welcome, Whitney Roberson, to the VMI Leader Journey Podcast.

Roberson: Thank you.

COLEMAN:  So, we're just going to start off with, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to VMI?

ROBERSON: Ok, well, Hello, good morning. I'm Whitney Robeson, Second Classman at VMI. I'm a history major, and hopefully, I'll be able to double major in Spanish as well. I'm on the women's soccer team, and besides soccer leading me to VMI, it was definitely the rigors and academic and the challenge of just everyday life, especially during the ratline, not really having time to have your own schedule, everything's kind of made for you so that was definitely one of the biggest challenges that I will have to face and I was ready to accept that challenge. So that's just something that one of the many things that led me to VMI.

I'm from Chesapeake, Virginia. I was in Air Force Junior ROTC in high school, and my instructors, they were big VMI fans. So, I'd heard about them my freshman year, actually, and continued to hear about VMI during my time in high school, and then one day I got, I was contacted by the coaches, and the pieces all kind of fell in place and it just worked out perfectly.

COLEMAN: So, in terms of leadership, what have you been involved in at VMI?

ROBERSON:  So, this year, I definitely am involved in a lot. I am the president of the Promaji Club, which is the, it's almost equivalent to like the black student unions that other colleges and universities, but it's basically here at VMI, it's a minority club and for students who stand in solidarity with other minorities here at VMI. I am also an assistant investigator on cadet government CEA [Cadet Equity Association]. Yeah. I am the Vice President of SAAC, which is the student-athlete Advisory Committee. And then last but certainly not least, probably the most, keeping me the most busy is that I'm a captain on the women's soccer team.

COLEMAN: So, being in these clubs and being in this leadership position, how has that changed your views on leadership?

ROBERSON: Coming into VMI, I always thought a leader was the one who just takes a group of people and makes it or tries to make it to the finish line to try to accomplish a goal, but it's so much more than that. Leadership [requires] like the whole person, so you have to think about the person's not only their strengths but also their weaknesses and how those can help you get towards that finish line.

I'm definitely more hands-on so I get more of the trial-and-error parts of leadership. I definitely think that the classroom sizes play a significant part in leadership in VMI, and allows people can grow, not only in their studies but also in those interpersonal relationships with their classmates, or their professors, or just in their field of study in general. They can become more sensitive to different people, different thoughts, different outlooks on how you can get to a solution, maybe in a different way. I definitely think the classroom builds leadership more than people think they do at VMI.

Um, trial and error definitely help a lot, but I also think having the people, having people around you that are going to push you to not be afraid to make those mistakes or push you to lead in areas that you might feel uncomfortable. Still, they know you're ready for it. Um, I'm gonna use the example of my coach. He pushes me to lead the team in different areas that I never thought that I could, but he sees something in me that he says, 'You can do it is your time and go for it now because you're the person, you're the person that this group should have leading, and you're ready for it.' So, definitely having someone, maybe like a mentor or coach or professor, around definitely helps because, for the most part, they've been through things like that. Especially whether it's soccer or it's VMI things. So, my Dyke was also very great, very good mentor. Here at VMI, professors, they've been through the classroom setting. They know how it is. So, different people in different areas pushing you definitely helped out a lot.

COLEMAN:  Some of our themes this year are leading self, leading your peers, and leading teams. I want to talk a little bit about leading your peers. And we all know that that can be really hard. What is some advice that you can give about leaving your peers?

ROBERSON: So, I think, it's especially at VMI, a lot of little things that lead into the bigger concepts of leading. So, I think that whether it was on the soccer field, or whether it was during the ratline or in the classroom, all of those little moments, maybe it was 10 or 15 moments, minutes, where I was kind of thrown into the fire to lead those moments definitely helped to direct me into a path of where I know I can be a successful leader I know how I can lead people not only dealing with their strengths but also helping them grow as a person.

So yeah, just a lot of little things leading into kind of one big overarching theme of this is, this is how to lead a group successfully. This is how to lead a team successfully, a class successfully.

Before you jump in, get to know the people that you're around—um, knowing just maybe one fact about the person knowing that they have two siblings or something, can help you in how you lead a person. You know that they're, they're receptive to different viewpoints.

Because having a big family that's something that I always take into consideration of how I lead someone. If they come from a family that's kind of small and now as the only child, you kind of have to leave them a little differently than you would lead someone who has three other siblings, like myself, because you kind of know-how things work how they are around other people or how they are receptive to any type of criticism or anything like that. So, I definitely say try to get, get to know the people that you're around before you try to push them too much to accomplish a goal or mission.

COLEMAN:  So, going into leading teams. What do you think is the most important thing to remember when you're leading a team?

ROBERSON: Each year, there's something different. Each person has something different in their life. So, I can't just say that I went through this.

Really look at what's driving them to be here first off and what will help them stay here. That is something that I have seen, especially this year being a captain and being one of the older players on the team; things are hard for different people. Not everybody is receptive to the same change. So, definitely taking a step back and not trying to put myself in someone else's shoes, but just kind of come from my area of understanding. I definitely think helps a lot.

PINKHAM: Right. It sounds, it sounds like you you, you sort of have some expert power and influence and really the expertise of being on the team for, for two or three years you know you, you have an understanding. And like you said earlier you, you have an understanding of a little bit of who your teammates are so you can put them in the right situation to to lead them and to influence them. That's really good.

COLEMAN:  Has VMI my improved your skills in working within diverse team settings?

ROBERSON:  VMI attracts the same type of person, someone who is headstrong and willing to take on any challenge. So, in a VMI sense, we're all I want to say we're all the same, but we all have the same mindset, and we all want to accomplish anything that's been in front of us. But the things that I have learned at VMI, and that I can take with me outside of the walls of VMI into a diverse group of people trying to lead them to accomplish a goal that has definitely been something that I will take along with me.

So, followership, to me, is the same as being a leader. We all have to start someplace. You might look up to the leader of the group and try to follow in their footsteps or use their same tactics. So, that is definitely a part of followership, but the same qualities and attributes still apply to someone who is within the group, say a follower to a leader to me at least.  

PINKHAM: I think we've spoken to a bunch of folks who would say that, um, leading by example is one of the strongest and simplest forms of leadership, and as a follower with your values, how you manage yourself, and I can, I totally understand your viewpoint of, you know, it's not really a follower. You're still a leader in this group.

COLEMAN: So, one final question we love to ask. What does leadership mean to you?

ROBERSON: To me leadership means, you aren't necessarily the biggest, strongest, fastest, smartest, most outgoing person there is within the group. But you are the person who everyone trusts, and everyone believes in you, and they know you can accomplish any goal set in front of you. You are ready to face those obstacles. You aren't going to shy away from anything placed in front of you. You're going to be the person, a head of the snake to say. You're going to be the one driving the force. If someone is down, you're going to pick them up, put them on your back, and carry them across the finish line. You're going to be the one to drive the team for winning a game or winning the championship, or anything like that. Everyone in the group looks up to you, and you're really that driving force. You have the motivation. You bring the motivation.

Yeah, so that's to me when leading is. That's what a leader is. That's what leadership is everything kind of encompasses all of those qualities.

COLEMAN: Great. That was awesome. All right, well, thank you so much for joining us.

The CLE would like to thank the following: Mr. Caleb Mynus '20 for the intro and backing music. Find more of his musical stylings on his Instagram page (@mynusofficial). Col. David Gray, USA (ret.), Director of the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics and, of course, as always, our podcast Guests.

PINKHAM: Find this podcast and other CLE programming information on the VMI Center for Leadership & Ethics website or our try YouTube channel. Follow the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts. See you next episode of the Journey. Thanks for tuning in!

Transcribed by https://otter.ai Edited by CLE staff.

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