The Topic: Take Me to Your Leader
Everybody talks about leadership, but what does it really mean? Is it one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” things that we struggle endlessly to define? Just try Googling the word and witness the mountains of books, irrefutable laws, numbered lists of attributes, style and advice available on the topic. There may not be one simple definition, but a meaningful and subtle variety in this most fundamental element of character. So, we asked the question—What is leadership?
Professor of Communication
One of the most important things about being a leader of any context is the ability to listen to other people and what they want to say. Understanding is really the base of any kind of leadership. If you don’t understand another person, how you can make things work? You have to be attentive and aware of the nonverbal cues that surround the verbal message, while also being careful not to make any drastic conclusions based on that.
Brother Michael Meister
Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
Leadership is a way of helping people do the best they can. I think of leadership as a way of opening doors and getting out of the way. In a sense it’s like a big circle—the person who’s the leader can be in the front, can be on either of the sides, can be in the back, but doesn’t necessarily have to be the one who’s always “I’m the boss.” To me leadership is empowering and affirming people. It’s showing them how to do things by your own example and by finding out what people can do, and then enabling them to do it.
Audrey Chase ’15
For me, leadership is best represented by someone who is not afraid to take a risk, make a change or voice an opinion. They are willing to take their ideas and dreams and make them into reality. A strong leader is someone who isn’t afraid to fall, dust themselves off and get right back up, and they take failure as an opportunity to learn and make a different choice next time. In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t—you’re right.”
Jessica Chew ’15
I think of someone who definitely knows how to work with different types of people, someone who is fair and thinks strategically, so they know that there are different situations and different answers. Open-mindedness goes with working with others. If you’re not open-minded, then you’ll exclude some people and include others. You have to take into account that everyone’s not the same.
Jules Perez ’14
Leadership means not being the one in front but being the one in the back. Usually people look at a leader that’s a model or an image, but to me it’s more than that. It’s being someone who can boost up the room’s energy, someone who can let their actions speak louder than their words. There are a lot of people that can motivate using their words or their talents, but it’s more than that. Leadership is a lifestyle; it’s more than a speech.
Patrick Lorenzo M.A. ’12
When I think about leadership, I think about values, and values expressed. Leadership is ultimately about action; it’s about how you go about living your life both professionally and personally. That comes to life through the values that you carry. After going through the Leadership M.A. Program here, I realized that leadership is personal; it has a relationship. Everyone is going to have a different way of valuing and expressing that leadership, so it’s about each individual.
Ryan Lamberton ’05, M.A. ’12
Educational Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator, CILSA
Leadership can be learned; it’s a creative process, an art that can be practiced for a lifetime. I have witnessed this firsthand through working with many SMC students over the last six years. I like to share the story of High Potential student Iris Rodriguez ’12 who as a sophomore very anxiously delivered an orientation to approximately 15 SMC students for a CILSA Saturday of Service. Two years later, as a senior, Iris confidently delivered several presentations to hundreds of prospective SMC students. “Experience builds confidence” was her mantra. Faculty and staff at Saint Mary’s invite and welcome students to live to their fullest potential, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Evan Richardson ’14
President of Black Student Union, Chief Justice of the Judicial Tribunal
Leadership is having the ability to step up and be able to help people find their own leadership skills. You have to make the tough calls. A leader considers everyone’s opinions but can’t expect to always be liked. Step back and let others have time to speak. Leadership has different forms: an outgoing person can be a leader and a quiet person can be a leader. It is about the ability to get people moving, inspire them to take action. Leaders help create other leaders.
Ete Martinez Anderson
Assistant Dean of Student Life
I have bought into the leadership definition used on campus. It is about people coming together around a goal. It is creating a positive social change. I see that very clearly when I look around campus. For example, the purpose of the Campus Activities Board is to create positive change through creating positive programming. The President’s Cabinet creates change here first, but this produces alumni who will create positive social change out in the world. Leadership is not “What position do I have?” It is “What’s my place in the world and how will it affect the world?”
Director of CILSA
Leadership is shepherding, which means you are not out in front leading, but behind and gently guiding people toward something. The life of a shepherd is lonely; it’s dirty and smelly, and you step in a lot of stuff along the way. It doesn’t mean standing out in front and waiting for people to fall in behind you. Leadership is empowering others to achieve their goals and vision that are related to the overall mission of an office or institution. It means stepping back and letting them run with it while taking the role of “guide on the side.”