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On What Does Good Leadership Rely? Rachel Mink (CLAS ’16) Has 4 Ideas

Sometimes abstract questions about leadership can be hard to answer. There’s no one way to be a leader; in fact, if there were only one way, we wouldn’t be nearly as progressive a world. But there is one thing all good leaders have in common: initiative. The innate desire to raise his or her hand first. It is this initiative that garners respect, improves the state of the world around us, and creates opportunities for more leadership. Developing leadership skills requires you to step out of your comfort zone and in to the world around you – but mostly, it just requires a little planning.

You know the old adage, “lead by example?” Well, it’s pretty accurate. Part of being a leader is acting like a leader. Whether that means having a big picture idea or being willing to sacrifice for your team, it’s important to remember that leadership is as much what you do on the outside as it is what you feel on the inside. Some people have a certain charisma that gives them a propensity for leadership (we all remember that bossy kid in kindergarten who turned into class president senior year) — but if they don’t act like a leader, no one will follow them. Charisma is only part of the equation.

Surround yourself with good people. Whether it is a talented vice president or an intelligent treasurer, your team is what makes your operation capable of just about anything. These have to be people you can trust. Remember: you can’t do everything by yourself. A lot of Type A Leaders (myself included) like to believe we can handle everything that’s thrown our way, but in reality, it’s easier to let leadership be spread among many. There should never be a monopoly on leadership (I think that’s better known as a dictatorship), so make sure the people around you are people you would like to see have responsibility. And if you don’t get to choose who surrounds you….

Smile. Not only will you feel better, but everyone you lead will feel better too. You may not like a current situation – that intelligent treasurer is getting on your nerves, or an even hasn’t gone as planned — but people always need reassurance. So smile! Tell someone they did a good job! There’s nothing more important than having a team that respects you, and when you make the best of a bad situation, you’re reminding everyone of why you’re their leader in the first place.

My final piece of advice on leadership is this: don’t think you’re too young or under-qualified. You’re not. If you have the desire to lead, then do it. Leadership doesn’t rely on age, and, in fact, sometimes a fresh, young mind is all a group needs to revitalize. Whether you’re a freshman in high school, a freshman in college, or new to a workplace, always remember that you have important things to say, despite (or because of) your age. Revolutions started with people younger than you – and I think you’re capable of starting a revolution too.

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