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Creating the tide at Motown

Motown leader reflects on boats at low tide

Emily Carle served on the summer staff of Motown Mission for two years. She reflects on how her leadership skills developed serving as Summer Center Director.

Motown Mission

This summer, I served as the Summer Center Director at Motown Mission. This position required me to oversee the other summer staffers and to connect with our Director, Amanda on a frequent basis. I was the link between her and the staff.

One aspect of the job that was very new to me was this hierarchy of positionality, in other words, being the “boss.” I had never been in a job where I was responsible for a team of peers. At the beginning of the summer, it was weird for me to be telling my fellow staff members what they needed to do, especially considering that one staffer was older than me!

Growing up, my parents established this idea of an age hierarchy; that you respect people older than you, and you don’t hold authority over them. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this concept is no longer applicable in this day and age. This was one assumption that I deconstructed and grew from during this summer. 

I also felt weird telling responsible people what to do; I’m not their mother! They don’t need someone on their back nagging them on what to do! Yet, this summer helped me deconstruct this idea that overseeing someone equals being authoritative. Rather, I was guiding my team, outlining the vision of what successful completion of the project would look like. Then, I let them be free to do their jobs and let their gifts shine. I also created space for feedback and questions, allowing the other staffers to have ownership of their work.

This summer helped me to reconstruct what it means to lead a team. It doesn’t mean that I do all the work, or I lead with an iron fist. It means that I divide the work based on my team’s talents, sharing my ideas for the project, listen, and adapt that vision based on my team’s feedback. Then I give them the tools they need to be successful.

The phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” was my mantra during this summer. I was responsible for creating this tide, and the staffers were the boats. I wasn’t controlling their boat, I was merely making it possible for them to launch so they could sail. I am so grateful for this new experience at Motown Mission that allowed me to grow in my professional and personal capabilities! 

~ More about Motown …

Emily Carle is a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College where she studies religion and sociology. She is planning on attending seminary in fall 2021.

Registrations are now being taken for summer 2021. Visit to apply to join the Motown Mission staff next summer.

Motown is now online (because Mission is not canceled because of COVID-19). Click here to learn how you and your group can embark on a virtual service opportunity with a Motown Mission (Online) Experience.