Original Leadership Philosophy Paper

July 2012

This leadership essay is written by all students as they embark on their Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program.  As a program each student will review and reflect on their original essay at the end of the program as part of a graduate portfolio project.  



Leadership is a powerful word.  To accept the role of leadership is by its very admission an act of humility. To lead is to accept responsibility not only for oneself but also for the actions of others.  Leadership tests one’s resolve to a commitment to excellence.   

The traits of a leader include: adaptability, socially alert, success-oriented, enterprising, collaborative, tenacious, reliable, powerful, dynamic, persevering, self-assured, strong and a willingness to accept responsibility for others (Yukl, 2010).  In this essay I will discuss how my life experience has prepared me thus far for leadership.  I am utilizing questions drawn from Kouzes and Posner’s “The Leadership Challenge” to direct this essay (Kouzes & Posner, 2007).

 My grandfather played an integral role in my life when I was a child. His favorite poem was “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and every time I read it, it defines my journey to leadership.  Throughout my life I took the “one less traveled by” and “it made all of the difference” (Frost, n.d.).

As a single parent, my mother raised me while teaching at an inner city Catholic School in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though we didn’t have much, my mother provided for me to attend Montessori Preschool.  This commitment to my early education built in me a curiosity to learn.  This also grew in me a passion for research, always making sure to speak from a place of thought-out knowledge.  Education and the opportunity to learn is a significant value in my life.  It keeps me up at night and keeps me up at night when I think of people who cannot embrace opportunity and work hard at hard work worth doing. 

My grandfather Angelo and grandmother Eddie played an integral role in helping raise me.  Grandpa Angelo set an example of success through stories of being the only Italian in a northern California small town, overcoming racial and linguistic difficulties and receiving a full-ride scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley where he caught the winning touchdown during the 1938 “Big Game” against Stanford.  (http://www.angelfire.com/co/Bananna/roadlesstraveled.html)

When I was five years old, my mother married my stepfather, Jim, a firefighter with the Berkeley Fire Department.  Jim chose to adopt me legally, a gift given by both my biological father in releasing his legal rights and by my “Dad” Jim who accepted me as his own.  This non-biological expression of love developed in me an ability to see past a person’s appearance to their character and authentically love people for who they are.  As a firefighter, my dad’s commitment to serving others was often seen by helping our neighbors or serving our family.  My dad also instilled in me characteristics related to independent learning.  He once told me: when you see a person with a quality you admire, model after them and apply it to your own life.  This pivotal lesson taught me the value of being aware of my surroundings and humility in learning from others. 

As a student I academically struggled in school.  Paulo Freire clearly explains my academic background by outlining the banking system of education.  Third through twelfth grade I learned, “knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those who they consider to know nothing”(Freire, 1970, pg. 72).  Throughout elementary and high school several psychological tests were performed to diagnose me with a learning disability that never actually existed. I never received support or help through school but teachers often communicated my failure.  Freire’s banking system of education created in me a sense of struggle, ineptness and academic failure.  Through academic struggles I developed strength, courage and conviction to overcome whatever hurdle I encountered. It taught me the value of hard work and about the journey of learning to overcome difficulties. 

Twenty years ago when I was 13 years old, on July 2, 1992, my grandfather Angelo passed away unexpectedly.  This pivotal experience in losing a father figure redirected and molded my life for the future.  His property management company consisting of 80 family-units was dissolved. My grandmother relocated our family from our working class blue-collar community to a white-collar professional community.  The extreme upset of such a move in my formative years disengaged me from a secure sense of home.  Through this pivotal life changing move I discovered a strength in quickly and easily adapting to changing environments.

Living in a white-collar community I learned to dress professionally, act respectfully and appreciate opportunity when it’s presented.  These appear to be simple skills but so few people recognize the association between how one looks (nose rings and tattoos out) to opportunity.  In high school I went on two missions trips to a Mexican orphanage named Rancho de sus Ninos (http://www.ranchodesusninos.org/).  This experience during my most self-absorbed years turned my attention away from myself and towards serving others.  I also developed a student athletic training program for students to get hands-on experience as a sports medic.  I volunteered 1,500 hours growing a successful program for other students to follow.

Our relocation to a higher net worth community set me on a path my grandfather had in mind for me at age two when he said, “One day, if you are well behaved, I will send you to college to perfect this writing of yours.”  And he did. 

 Needing remedial work from my “banking system of education,” I attended my local community college for three years (Freire, 1970).  This opened up multiple opportunities for international travel including a three-month semester in London, England, ten weeks backpacking solo through Western Europe and three weeks in Italy and the UK.  My international travel experiences eliminated my ethnocentricity as I wove the fabric of other cultures in to my worldview.  This international worldview significantly affects my leadership style through my ability to openly accept and recognize a more expansive worldview.

In the final weeks of my time in community college I received a letter from the Dean’s office.  Terrified, I opened it expecting trouble (though I hadn’t done anything to warrant the fear).  The Dean congratulated me for making the Dean’s List.  This letter reconciled my sense of academic failure by being accepted in to Alpha Gamma Sigma, a national honor society.  I joined the Alpha Gamma Society twelve years ago, not even knowing what it stood for.  Just two days ago, July 4th, 2012, I showed my husband John a 2x3” card stating Alpha Gamma Sigma (Gamma Psi Chapter) and he told me it’s an honor society and to Google it.  I still do not fully understand it. 

This innocence to academic regalia brings to my leadership style an authenticity and genuineness.  Through my academic challenges I developed a gentle spirit and empathetic compassion to special needs and those with challenges, accepting people where they are and cheering every step they make individually. 

Following my ten-week solo backpacking adventure, I transferred to Whitworth University.  In the safety of the “pine cone curtain” of Whitworth I was academically challenged to discover my worldview and design a life built on faith and service.  Through Whitworth I attended Urbana 2000, a conference of over 10,000 college students exploring mission work (www.urbana.org).  I spent three weeks the following summer at Biola University training to teach English abroad.  It was this TEFL course and the judgmental exclusivity of classmates that ended my pursuit of missions.   Though I stopped serving in a missionary capacity, I took my principle of “service to others before self” into the work world. 

Walking across the stage at the Spokane Arena on May 19, 2002 defined that one moment in time when I overcame a sense of impossible academic odds to graduate with my bachelor’s degree.  It symbolized an epic adventure. I remember the tingling head to toe and the importance of completion and celebration. 

Following my Whitworth University graduation, I settled down into a six-year career in the insurance industry.  I built a life, first in the San Francisco Bay Area, then in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and settled into a life of stability and consistency.  The turbulence of my move in high school followed by the natural moves of my college years demanded I seek solace in consistency and regularity.  It was during these domestic years that I discovered a central theme of my life.  The significant moves in my life coupled by international travel developed in me a skill to quickly assess a situation and create an effective stabilizing plan for success.  Though I hate to admit it, I attract instability.  Every single job in the last decade has, in one way or another, required I step in and provide stabilization techniques in the midst of management upset or transitions.  I can quickly make short, medium and long-term game plans to make sure employees remain on track throughout the upset.

In 2009, my quick ability to stabilize shone as I was airlifted in critical condition from our rural Klamath Falls community to our regional Children’s Miracle Network hospital in Medford, Oregon.  Our son Giovanni Victor Angelo Cascamo was born 2 ½ months premature at 2 ½ pounds.  Following his birth I quickly adapted to the expectations of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and thrived in this difficult environment.  Giovanni thrived as well during our eight-week stay.  It was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that my son and I began representing the Children’s Miracle Network and an expansion unit to serve families like ours that were displaced by prematurity.  We attended the ribbon cutting in August 2011 for thirteen new private rooms.  Though I have yet to formalize my purpose for the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership, my passion is to serve prematurity awareness and children with special needs. 

In early 2011 I relocated our family 580-miles south to San Luis Obispo, California, with the help of some friends.  John continued to work full time as I directed our significant relocation.  I reached out and became the pivotal representative of our family, networking and building new relationships in our community.  My central theme of adaptability played a role in my ability to adjust quickly.

Life experience created in me a person that values professionalism, respect, fairness, integrity and work ethics.  My principles are fairness, service to others, honor and respect.  My standards represent quality in everything I do from my commitment to raising a healthy micro-premature child, to supporting my husband and my pursuit of higher education.

If I had to create an ideal image of myself it would be professional, respectful, educated, hardworking, dedicated to my family, authentic, genuine, compassionate, a Servant-Leader and willing to set an example for others to follow. 

My first central theme in my life is related to overcoming hardship as seen through my academic journey from elementary school to graduate school.  This developed in me a strong belief in building opportunity and helping others overcome through adversity.  A second central theme in my life is a unique ability for adaptability.  The significant moves and travel in my life developed in me the skill to quickly assess a situation and create an effective stabilizing plan to achieve success through strategic planning using an action planning approach. 

A third central theme is a passion for serving others.  Serving the needs of others and volunteering has always been a constant in my life. 

At this point in time I cannot predict or plan for the future.  We will not know until January 2013 the fate of accreditation at the community college where my husband works.  As a family we have yet to decide if we want to spend a year teaching at an international university or what I will do with my graduate degree.  The completion of my graduate degree and my pursuit and passion for prematurity and special needs might require relocation.  We have two years to decide.  Either way, I close with my all-time favorite quote, the one quote printed on my wall:



We shall not cease from exploration


And the end of all our exploring


Will be to arrive where we started


And know the place for the first time.


            T.S. Eliot