Essay Series # 4: Assess your development as a leader.

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I have examined
before the qualities of the effective leader, which I believe to be threefold:
the realization that the world is not as it should be, the boldness to question
the status quo, and the humility to know always that he may not already have
the answer. He should never seek the esteem of the public, but instead must be
restless for the pursuit of truth and justice. The question of this essay
though, is my development as a leader, and whether or not I am that leader of
who I have written so often. I assure the reader that I am not a man of
steadfast resilience and restlessness -though I hope one day to be -but I would
like to explore a few observations regarding my development: first; that
personal reflection has been crucial, and second; that true leadership isn’t
necessarily grand.

 

The recent
developments on campus have reminded me that most of the time our convictions
exist not as the product of critical thinking, but rather by picking the
popular or the non-conformist polarization, depending on our personal
proclivities. If leadership is the pursuit of truth, and defines itself by
abandoning assumptions and the status quo, then the leader must not only discern
the voices of the pundits and politicians, but he must offer his own original
assessment as well. I have learned that my skepticism has become second nature,
but my original thought is often stifled by the myriad of messages that I am
fed through social media and unlimited, unavoidable constant communication. The
reality is that I may have gone through my college career without having more
than 20 truly original and novel ideas. I have trained myself, however, to
discern what I hear, and force myself to continually ask myself what reasons I
have for holding the convictions that I do. I wrote last week about my
encounter with a homeless man in Pittsburgh, and just as I believe that the
only think I could do there was simply to sit down with him and listen to him,
in the case of my helplessness to counter my natural inclination to follow the
popular thought -I believe that progress begins at the question “why?”

 

A great friend
of mine told me last week about his relationship with his father. The man, who
left my friend and his mom for another woman has been the source of much
disappointment for my friend, but he confessed to me that he believes that he
is also fully capable of becoming the person that his father is. Where he
believes there is hope though, is that where his father never seemed to
acknowledge his actions as problematic, my friend holds the conviction that
they were, and he has set his will against walking down that same path. He is
not there yet -far from it -but I believe that he is at the very least turned
in the right direction. I think that most often we are forced to make decisions
without any real understanding of our situation or of the consequences of our
choices. Much like my friend, we don’t know exactly how to get from point A to
point Z -and maybe not even how to get to point B -but we start by recognizing
that the status quo is unacceptable. And it’s there that we move from
conformity to progress.

 

To address my
second point, that leadership isn’t necessarily grand, I would like to suggest
that the opportunity to lead is always there. If I am having a better day -and
am not consumed by my own priorities -I like to ask myself how can I lead
today. It usually comes down to something really small: if I’m leading a
meeting, I will remind my vice-president how much I appreciate her input and
value her leadership. I am convinced that leadership exists at many levels, and
that seemingly small actions have the ability to teach and influence the people
around you. The key though, is living each day intent on shaping your sphere of
influence for the better.

 

My leadership
here at Penn State has been modest, and admit that I don’t expect to leave a
significant legacy; at least not in the structural sense. My perspective
though, is that I am leading in the way that I need to right now -being
outspoken about my views, and seeking to inspire critical though in my peers.
Whether my actions here will really change the social environment in any big
way I’m not sure really matters; but I think that I am doing what I need to in order
to become a leader that may one day be able to further justice and truth in my
community.

 

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