Lead for yourself, not others

In my four years at ASL, I’ve taken in a lot. I’ve learned valuable lessons both in the classroom and out that I will take with me into university. Some of these lessons have been taught to me intentionally by the school, while others have come naturally in an experiential sense. Above all, the thing I’ve learned most from my time here is about what it means to be a leader, and what makes a successful one. 

Between my experiences on The Standard, Student Council, Peer Leadership, the rugby team and simply observing adult leaders in the school, I’ve come to a conclusion about what type of person and ethos yields a successful leader. The largest distinction between a successful leader and unsuccessful leader is most easily discerned as the difference between those who lead for others and those who lead for themselves. There are those to whom people and their respect, gravitate toward, and those who lead with their own ego, trying to forcibly squeeze unwilling respect out of others.

Before I continue, I’m sure there are those who might consider this advice hypocritical, and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with them. This is as much advice for myself as anyone else, and a piece of knowledge I wish to take with me into my future endeavors. I consider this advice in the hope that I can improve in this regard, as I hope others will try to as well.

However, a student who I think does an exemplary job of embodying this style of leadership is Ian Scoville, the Editor-in-Chief of The Standard, with whom it was a great pleasure to work under. Scoville didn’t lead The Standard or the Student Faculty Discipline Board (SFDB) with an ego implying he deserved to be in charge or with an agenda to better his own means. He lead them because he genuinely wanted to help and mentor others in fostering a forum for student voice and create a disciplinary process that was as fair as possible for all those in a precarious position.

It was exactly this type of leadership that caused students and faculty alike to gravitate toward Scoville and that led, at least everyone I know, to have the utmost respect for him. I don’t want to make it seem as if Scoville is the only leader who exemplifies these qualities at The School, as there is a reason no one ever has anything bad to say about English Teacher Peggy Elhadj, or that the editors and staff writers of The Standard alike so value the advice of The Standard Adviser Shannon Miller. There are many people who have adopted this tactic and it has led them to great success with regard to leadership.

Alternatively, I have also observed many people who have tried to force leadership, or allowed their egos to them  from becoming widely respected, well-liked or successful leaders. This is not to say that these leaders are bad people or unqualified to led. I am simply saying that there are some leaders in the school who have tried to force respect instead of have others want to give it to them. They have failed in the sense that they have lead with their own interests in mind instead of the people they are supposed to be leading.

The most obvious way I have seen this failure displayed is when people take things too personally. Decisions, from a leader’s perspective, should benefit the majority. Just because someone is a leader, it doesn’t mean they are always right. When people think these leaders are wrong it is important for the leader to accept their mistake instead of letting their hubris get in the way of moving forward.

Leadership isn’t about one person and it isn’t about making decisions to better oneself or giving someone a sense of importance. Unfortunately, I think that some, but not all, leaders at ASL forget this all too often. The roles of leaders at this school should be to do what’s best for those people relying on them, not what best satisfies themselves.