Danielle Mikaelian is a Columbia University graduate who was named Columbia's 2021 Student of the Year in recognition of her contribution to campus life. She is currently a second year student at Harvard Law School. Danielle Mikaelian is a published poet and writer.

Becoming an Unstoppable Leader: There is No Age Limit

Becoming an Unstoppable Leader: There is No Age Limit

Have you thought about launching an idea or initiative? Did your age, lack of experience, or self-doubt stop you? It shouldn’t. One can lead with purpose at any age. Take it from me, a 25-year-old student who has launched various initiatives and journals. I’ve coordinated everything from private gatherings with the Prime Minister of Armenia to a nonprofit educational initiative that helped hundreds of students receive free resume and essay feedback as they applied to college.

My name is Danielle Mikaelian and I am a student at Harvard Law School. I graduated from Columbia University with a BA in English Literature, occupying roles on over ten executive boards and being named 2021 Student of the Year. At Harvard Law, I have enrolled in courses such as Leading from the Middle, Leadership Fundamentals, and Adaptive Leadership to learn how to lead from experts. I also serve as Executive Vice President of Harvard Law Association for Law and Business, overseeing all operations processes for one of the largest organizations at Harvard Law School.

My experiences have taught me that everyone has the potential to evoke positive change and lead others toward a common goal. However, the right mindset is key.

Here are some key takeaways I’ve learned as a result of my experience leading teams and organizations:

My Insights on Becoming an Unstoppable Leader

1. Understand the Adaptive Challenge

An adaptive challenge is the gap between the current reality and aspired reality. What is currently happening, and what do you need to change to produce the desired outcome? What are the steps you will need to take to arrive at this destination?

2. Identify Allies

Coalition building is essential. Your ideas need to be supported by others on your team. How do you encourage others to come on board? What would they lose in supporting your ideas, and do you have any flexibility to ensure that there is more common ground?

3. Listen to Others

As a leader of any organization, it can be easy to push forward with your ideas. However, adaptive leaders do not impose their ideas on team members but instead make everyone feel validated as they contribute to a project. This improves internal motivation levels and morale. Leadership is a team effort, and you need to ensure others remain on board with your plans to ensure functional, smooth processes as an organization.

4. Analyze Stakeholder Perspectives

Individuals will have different perspectives on your ideas. One must look beyond their team and analyze other stakeholders in the system. Who else will be affected by your idea, and how can you convince them to be on board with your project?

5. Lead Others Through Risks and Losses that Come with Adaptive Change

People react to loss more than they react to change. Most ideas will lead to someone losing out, making them hesitant to implement your plan. How do you continue to keep others motivated? What compromises are you willing to make?

6. Have a Clear Timeline

Check-in points and accountability measures are critical. Create a proposed timeline early on while being cognizant of the availability of other team members. Having too many meetings can lead to burnout, while having too few meetings can lead to tasks not being completed on time.

7. Lines of Code

Your background and upbringing is likely influencing how you react to situations. How are these lines of code affecting you as a leader, and how do you look past these to anticipate how others are reacting to your proposed plans and ideas?

Remember —you are never too young or inexperienced to lead transformational change. Keeping in mind these lessons will help you start your journey, paving the way for others and making your visions a reality.

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Danielle Mikaelian is a Columbia University graduate who was named Columbia's 2021 Student of the Year in recognition of her contribution to campus life. She is currently a second year student at Harvard Law School. Danielle Mikaelian is a published poet and writer.

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