Leaders Come in Many Forms

Pam Gieselman

Former Clay Hunt Fellow and Army veteran Pam Gieselman weighs in on honing her skills as a leader with the support of Team Rubicon and Wounded Warrior Project.

I joined Team Rubicon in 2012. It’s an amazing organization that has changed my life and afforded me many great opportunities that I would have never otherwise had.

After three years of serving on the front lines of disaster response all across the country, I applied to serve as a Clay Hunt Fellow and was accepted in 2015. The fellowship stretched me both emotionally and professionally, and it taught me more about myself as a leader in one year than I had previously learned in a lifetime. I learned leaders come in many forms, and I don’t have to rebuild myself from the bottom up in order to become a great one. I learned it is more productive to focus on building up your strengths rather than trying to correct your weaknesses. And most importantly, I learned to combine my strengths with my passions to find that sweet spot where I can not just succeed but excel.

Army veteran Pam Gieselman found a new purpose (and some new ink) through continued service after she hung up the uniform.

My experience through the Clay Hunt Fellows Program would not have been possible without the support of sponsors like the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. And beyond financial support, WWP has expanded my veteran network in my local area. In the years since becoming a WWP alumnus, they have never failed to support a request for help either for Team Rubicon, a fellow veteran, or myself. Their staff shows an incredible amount of care, and I often wonder what their secret is to hiring such compassionate people who fit so perfectly into the roles they lead. They often invite me to speak and recruit at their alumni events, but more importantly, their commitment to me as a leader within WWP is clear, extending invitations to attend both local and national leadership summits where I can continue the path I began as a Clay Hunt Fellow.

Cohort 3 of the Clay Hunt Fellows Program presented on their capstone projects during their graduation ceremony in Los Angeles.

At a leadership summit in Corpus Christi, TX, with WWP, I was given a gift of words that helped to ease an insecurity that I have carried with me ever since taking the uniform off over nine years ago. Interestingly enough shortly after arriving in Texas I began to feel like maybe I didn’t belong or worse yet that I was almost a fraud. You see, I am not a combat veteran, which often makes me feel as though my contributions could never measure up to what other veterans have gone through or sacrificed. And I was the only non-combat veteran at the summit. I spent my time wondering if I should try to add what I could to the discussions or just keep quiet, so I did both. I piped up a little here and there and then tried to observe and absorb.

After a day or so I was chatting with Brian Neuman, an alumni director for WWP, and a veteran who lost his arm in combat, I mentioned I felt a little out of place in the room. He seemed a little surprised but after a second he shared a couple of things with me. First, he told me that everyone invited to Texas had been hand selected based on recommendations made by employees at local WWP offices so I absolutely was meant to be there. And second, he thought my perspective was very important to WWP and to other veterans because of the fact that others like me may be afraid to speak up. And lastly, he told me it took courage for me to continue to show up and serve the veteran community even though sometimes I feel like I don’t measure up.

Pam’s first operation with TR was in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, where the elements weren’t going to stop TR or the USPS from getting their job done.

I am not cured of feeling inferior while constantly being surrounded by bona fide war heroes, but when I doubt myself, I definitely think about Brian’s words and remind myself that my voice matters not only for me but perhaps for others who are afraid to use their own.

This has been my journey with TR and WWP, and since a leader is never done learning, I’m just getting started.

Team Rubicon is accepting applications for Cohort 5 of the Clay Hunt Fellows Program through March 31, 2017. 

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