By far one of my most important experiences in high school was Science Olympiad, a high school science team consisting of 15 people who collectively compete against other highschool teams in 23 different events spanning all areas of math, science and engineering. I joined the team my sophomore year as a founding member and nobody really knew what to expect. This first year we barely managed to field a team of 15. Through hardwork and a little bit of luck, we some how managed to win our state tournament which qualified us to attend the national tournament. At nationals I won the only medal our team won at nationals. That was a big deal for me at the time because it really made me feel like a contributing member of the team, even though I was one of the youngest members.
The next year, I was chosen to be junior team captain. This was the first time I really took on a formal leadership position that mattered. It was my responsibility as team captain to run meetings and recruit members as well as other organizational tasks and to make sure that everyone stayed on task studying for their events. Although my tasks were small compared to the leadership responsibilities that I handle now, at the time, they forced me to expand my interpersonal skills and my self confidence to stand up to a large group.
My senior year, I was promoted to co-captian. As co-captain, I had to take on even more responsibilities. The reason for this was mostly because we were very effective at recruiting that year and the team grew from 16 to 34. This meant that all of a sudden there were more than double the number of people at meetings. Additionally, as one of only two members who had been on the team for all three years, the new members looked up to me for advice and guidance. Also, I sort of became the figure head for the team in many cases. This was partially because my fellow co-captain was a very shy person and tended to defer to me when it came to making presentations and speaking for the group. While this was intimidating at first, I gained more self-confidence in my presentation and interpersonal abilities as a consequence. When no one knew what the plan was, they tended to turn to me to make decisions. This meant deciding on everything from where we were going to go out to eat to giving input about who should be on the varsity and who should be on the JV team. As a consequence I had to seriously develop my decision making skills and my ability make decisions on the spot, while under pressure. Overall, what I think I learned from my time leading my teammates as a Science Olympiad team captain is that you know you're a good leader if you get handed the trophy willingly. And at my last state competition, this is what happened. When I got handed the trophy I realized that every group needs someone to lead them. A recurring internal struggle of my time as team captain was never really feeling worthy enough to represent the group. I always felt like the real work was put in by the team members who had studied for the events and competed to their best ability. But what I realized when I got handed the trophy is that not only did my teammates appreciate my work outside of my events but that someone has to take the trophy. Every group needs a leader, even though the members are the important part of the group.