Want to Become a Leader? First, Find Your Cause.

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“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” — Margaret Mead

Leadership starts with you caring about a cause. This caring is what moves you to action and as you try and fail, you’ll either realize that this is not the cause for you or your determination will strengthen. Should you continue trying, you will reach the unthinkable and the new. At this point, others will notice. Some will be inspired by your actions and will join you in solving your cause because it will become their cause, too. Leadership is felt first.

My mission is to expand humanity’s abilities by forming the human-computer symbiosis in which people guide the machine’s processing power with their creativity. Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators” inspired me to my present mission statement by showing me the daring ideas and failures that shaped the history of computers to the incredible tools they are today. Before this, I only had my collection of activities which I enjoy immensely: building mechanisms with Lego blocks, psychological analysis, and organizing my knowledge to see new patterns and speed up learning new concepts. But these were disconnected and the book appealed to them and oriented them toward a common goal.

First, Find Your Cause.

So what do you truly care about? Start solving a world problem related to the cause you care about. You may care about many things. Go through each cause and think of problems, then think of solutions to these problems and then actions to implement these solutions. Don’t restrain your imagination. If these solutions seem out of your reach, scale them down, to the point where you can do something about it. Then pick one and make someone’s life better. That’s how it starts.

The cause you care about springs from your very core and it fuels you throughout your life, giving you purpose and energy. Productivity, competence in your field, soft skills, etc. are tools for you to make your cause a reality. However, without your cause figured out, you will feel lost at times. Here’s how to proceed:

1. Figure out your cause as you go through life while learning the tools. Don’t be afraid to switch between causes until you find your true one(s). Choose early, start local and practice.

2. Develop your productivity since you’ll have work to do and no time to linger.

3. Ask specific questions that clear away the confusion. Find out as fast as possible what you don’t know you don’t know so that you know where to explore next.

4. Scale the passion for your cause by pulling others up. Don’t go alone in the projects that matter.

I strongly recommend reading Stories We Need to Know by Allan G. Hunter, Chapter 18: “What the Literature Has Shown: Stages and Sub-Stages” for complete details on this process.

“When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.” — Unknown

Maria Stoica

Maria is a Software Engineer at Microsoft and a mentor for young women in computer science via the Grace Hopper Conference. She loves taking ideas apart and putting them back together in new ways to create useful tools. Maria is a multipotentialite who seeks to bring together all her wild interests in her mission to create the human-computer symbiosis.

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