By Margarita Alejandra Hernandez, CSI Multicultural Student Affairs Coordinator

The only venue that genuinely and honestly answers “Who Am I as a Leader?” requires reflecting on the philosophical query of “Who Am I?” I believe that by navigating and understanding our journey in life, our values, assumptions and beliefs about ourselves, we are better equipped to explore and create the leader within.

  • Where Does My Identity Come From?
  • What is My Core Identity?
  • What is My Passion?
  • Authenticity
  • Constant Discovery
  • Unity Without Uniformity

Where Does My Identity Come From?

The subject of identity has been studied from many different perspectives, and now it’s my turn to dive into the tricky, complex waters of abstract thinking. Countless times I have stared at my reflection in the mirror and asked the same question, “Who am I?” I always go back to the same places for answers: my journey from birth, my interactions with others, nature and the many roles I have played.

Spending almost 20 years of my early adult life under a dictatorship made me a stronger survivor and instilled a hunger for becoming an independent thinker and an agent of change.

What is My Core Identity?

Like most of us, at birth I received luggage packed with structures, values, things to learn and unlearn, and in my case, a great deal of Do’s and Don’ts. Spending almost 20 years of my early adult life under a dictatorship made me a stronger survivor and instilled a hunger for becoming an independent thinker and an agent of change.

As I developed personally, I started making my own decisions about what luggage I wanted to add or get rid of. I became a product of the choices I made or consciously decided not to make.

Returning to the complex concept of identity and persistence of identity, I realize that I am a collection of constantly changing parts: my body, my mind, my emotions, circumstances. And at the same time, in an amazing, illogical way, I always return to one unchanging truth: I am a survivor. This is my essence–my core values, my fundamental choices as a survivor who wants to thrive in a healthy learning community.

What is My Passion?

As a survivor of my own journey, passion has powered all aspects of my life experiences. The common denominator, my fundamental choice, has always been the determination to make an impact in someone else’s life. I have learned and witnessed that education is the key to success. Education opens a door to a world of wonders where an individual can experience a magical transformational process, not only in the intellectual arena, but also in the world of feelings, emotions and character development.

“The true force that attracts others is the force of the heart”


Through experiences, I came to the realization that in order to impact someone’s life, I had to be authentic. In order to create a healthy learning community, I had to become an authentic leader in the sense that I bring into the light those aspects of Who I Truly Am. As James Kouzes and Barry Posner beautifully state, “The true force that attracts others is the force of the heart” (1987, p.125).

By practicing authenticity, I have been able to earn the trust and respect of my community. Aligning my leadership style with my personal purpose and values has helped me to inspire others and given me the stamina to perform consistently.

Constant Discovery

Discovering who you are as a leader is a never-ending process. You will continue to grow, evolve, and develop your leadership skills. At the present time, with confidence, I can say that as an educational leader my main focus is respect for people and the work environment. I believe that by honoring this belief, people can do what they do best every day. Leadership that embraces people’s strengths and areas of lesser talent facilitates the process of people taking ownership and responsibility for actions and contributions.

…my main focus is respect for people and the work environment.

Unity Without Uniformity

As a result, we create a unified community that fosters a willingness to work with a diverse population toward a common goal of excellence. This is precisely what I mean by impacting someone else’s life. We motivate, inspire and empower individuals to make important decisions and become their own unique leader– what Bennis (2003) so eloquently calls “unity without uniformity” (p. 57). I believe that my dedication, experience, knowledge, skills and passion for the transformational power of education empowers me to continue my adventure as I discover and develop my own uniqueness as a leader in this ever-changing world of mine.

Bennis, W. (2003). On becoming a leader. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books Group. Chapter 3
Ferris, W. (1998). A Sense of Place. Humanities: V 19, No 1: p: 1-5
Evans, R. (1996). The human side of school change: Reform, resistance, and the real-life problems of innovation. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Chapter 9
Northouse, P. G. (2004). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
Quinn, R. E. (2000). Change the world: How ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary results. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Chapters 1, 2 and 3

Margarita Alejandra Hernandez

Margarita Alejandra Hernandez is a Latina professional who was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. She has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, including 18 of those in Boston, MA. Alejandra recently moved to Twin Falls, ID and loves it! She earned a MA in Educational Leadership from Cambridge College, MA, and a BA in Educational Psychology. She received most of her formal education in Chile, where she studied Agricultural Engineering and Social Communication. She has over 15 years of experience working in schools and in the community as an educational consultant. Passion drives everything she does, and she considers herself a lifelong learner whose mantra in life is “get curious, not furious.” As the Coordinator of Multicultural Student Affairs at the College of Southern Idaho, Alejandra creates and implements multicultural programming for all students across our campus, with an emphasis on Hispanic-Latino/a cultures. Contact her at [email protected].

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