Career Development and Success

How to Instill Leadership

by Ryan Grady

Photo of Leadership Talks

For this post, we interviewed CAP College Coach Ryan Grady about CAP’s approach to leadership, CAP’s first leadership conference, and his own leadership journey. 

  1. What does leadership mean at CAP? What are the key qualities?

We think of leadership as the courage and capacity to create positive change in your own life and in the lives of others. Being a leader doesn’t have to mean being the person on the stage. It can also mean being the one that encouraged that person to get on the stage, the person in the audience ready to help move the vision forward, or the person that stays after the event to clean up. Leadership demands the creativity to create a vision and the courage to move it forward even when it seems scary and out of your comfort zone.

  1. Why is leadership coaching part of the CAP model?

Leadership is a core part of our organization’s goals and mission. We want all our Wave-Makers to graduate and make an impact in their communities by embodying their values: respect, responsibility, resilience, community, and scholarship.


  1. How does CAP work to instill leadership skills in its students?

As you know, we provide coaching to all our students. However, just because we provide coaching, doesn’t mean that all our Wave-Makers come to our meetings ready to take advantage of the opportunity. Our staff works hard to build the skills and capacity of our Wave-Makers to become more coachable over time. If you are coachable, you (1) have a vision, (2) are self-aware, (3) are open to new perspectives and the tough-to-hear truth, and (4) take initiative in your own growth as a student, professional and person. These are components of leadership.

  1. Can you share an anecdote of a CAP student who has really grown into his or her own as a leader?

When Daniel C. came to us, he already had leadership skills and was an active member of his community, the City of San Pablo.  However, since arriving at UC Davis, Daniel has elevated his leadership skills by joining the Youth Empowerment Program, which supports incarcerated youth in Yolo County.  In addition, he has actively developed relationships with professors, improved his time management skills, and started attending professional conferences. Daniel is working diligently to improve his leadership skills so once he graduates, he can continue to positively impact his community.

  1. Why did CAP decide to host its first Leadership Summit? What did the day entail?

On Saturday, March 24, we hosted our first annual leadership event, which to me seems like the next evolution of CAP. Over the last five years, we’ve diligently built a program that helps students graduate with little to no debt and the ability to earn a job in their desired field. We are now working to hone in on leadership skills, which has always been a big part of the Making Waves vision. At our first Leadership Summit, we really worked to make it a high energy, uplifting, and collaborative event.  We had a great speaker – Gabriel Chaparro, the STEM Equity Director at Chabot College, a leadership panel, teambuilding activities, and opportunities for participants to coach each other around their plans to become better leaders.

  1. Let’s talk about your story. As a college student, what helped you grow as a leader?

Over the years I took a lot of leadership positions.  I was chair of our University of Wisconsin chapter for a Gubernatorial campaign, Students for Doyle, and I was also chair of College Democrats.  While I did some cool stuff with these organizations, I never really developed as a leader within those roles. Looking back, I wish I had a coach to help me identify leadership opportunities where I could have implemented important initiatives within those organizations.  This is one of the many reasons I am a college coach and why I planned this leadership conference.  I want to ensure our Wave-Makers are taking risks to get interesting experiences and using those experiences to grow as students, professionals, and people.  As I always say, an experience without reflection is just something that happened to you. And it’s tough to grow if things are just happening to you.