To lead a community, however large, in whatever role, takes time, dedication and a genuine love for the work.
During my four years at SPU, I have found that our student leaders often fit into one of two categories.
The first group consists of the genuine leaders. These are students who are sincerely interested in leading a community. They feel called to serve or feel a need to aid in the development of their organizations.
Whether its leading a club, a dorm or a larger responsibility, they are constantly listening and searching for ways to serve and help their community improve.
I have been lucky enough to serve with and be led by many individuals who fall under this category. I can honestly say that they have helped me be a better person, and have witnessed the impact they’ve played in the lives of many other people as well.
The second group, which in most recent years I have come to believe contains most student leaders here, is the superficial leaders.
This group contains little to no sign of genuine commitment to the communities they serve. These are the students who lead for selfish reasons: a resume boost, name recognition, ego, power, privileges, the list can go on.
Just as I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by genuine leaders, I have also been witness to countless superficial leaders throughout my time at SPU.
What is sad is that most of these students are not bad people. However, they lack a certain type of care or awareness to find the deeper meaning within their role. To them, the position is simply a conquest or challenge.
Charismatic as these leaders may be, their actions are lacking, only focused on their own interests.
They will either do the bare minimum, never doing less than is required,but also never reaching beyond, or they will aim to be the most praised, the most recognized person in that role.
Leadership shouldn’t be about a checklist or meeting the bare minimum requirement. There is a constant, ever-changing need in a community. If all one is focused on is filling the role, then you forget to listen to the changes.
You miss what is really needed of you.
There is no room for ego in a genuine leader. It does not matter if you personally gain something. The value is in what the community gains.
Like I said, I’ve known people in both groups. I have known genuine leaders that have been turned down or overlooked for someone superficial or lacking.
SPU offers an abundance of leadership opportunities for students. From clubs to residence life to almost every other aspect of the university, there is bound to be a position for an interested prospective leader. However, just because anyone can attempt to be leader at SPU doesn’t mean everyone ought to be, or are well equipped to do so.
SPU has a tendency to focus on the wrong qualifications; often the candidates who don’t appear to be the most equipped at first glance are the ones who in action are more capable of leading with intentionality and determination.
We should be focusing more on the quality of leadership the quantifiable deliverables. The effectiveness of leaders can never truly be numerically measured or counted. Successful leadership is about impact. What matters are things often not visible to the eye. What lasts are interpersonal connections and meaningful interactions.
How does one measure those things?
When you step into a leadership role, you have a responsibility to the people you lead. That means, regardless of the situation, you must act accordingly. One cannot simply choose to represent their community in one action, and pretend like they don’t in another. Your actions are tied to the community you lead.
It’s time that we hold our definition of leadership to a higher standard.
Being a leader isn’t about the benefits or the power, but rather about the people one serves, about their development and potential.
Question not just a leader’s list of accomplishments, but more importantly, how they empower their community from within.
Are they genuine in their intentions? Or are they simply looking to lead in hopes that it will benefit them, and mainly them, in the future?
Without these questions, we leave the gaps unaddressed, which can only harm our communities.
I have felt the impact of these gaps and I have tried to learn from them. Superficial leaders in my life have helped me to better acknowledge and appreciate the people who have been exhibiting genuine leadership.
It’s hard not to appreciate honest, genuine calls to leadership, when the alternative is so lacking.
Honestly, I don’t have a clear action or solution for this. We can start by holding our leaders, our peers and ourselves to a higher standard. We can try and see past the charisma and people skills to the intentions. I don’t have an answer.
I know, however, that until we acknowledge that this is happening and that it is a genuine problem within our school’s leadership, we cannot aim to fix it.