As we induct our new student leadership group, it is appropriate that we reflect upon the question “What is Leadership?” Sadly we are provided a myriad of examples of appalling leadership by many of our political caste who profess that leadership is about helping one’s self and one’s tribe. We regularly see politicians and business leaders caught with their ‘snouts in the trough’, and where the point of power and influence seems so often not to serve the people, but enjoy the power itself and its perks. Moreover, for many of the political class, leadership is about following trends in order to achieve popularity and therefore votes, rather than providing necessary and ethical leadership. Some seem devoid of an ethical compass or to be in possession of a clear set of values to guide their rhetoric and action. Such leaders provide shocking role models for others, particularly our young, and create division and disharmony in society. This is abundantly evident in a number of regions around the world at present, particularly across the Pacific.
This approach to leadership is the exact opposite of what we desire in our leaders. Leadership is about service, humbly giving of yourself for the benefit of others. Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example.
Our incoming student leaders will therefore need to understand that their role is to serve their fellow students and the School. This is mostly done through hard work and being concerned for others. Most leadership is not glamorous. Much of it is mundane, tedious, task oriented and repetitious. For leaders to survive in such a context, they need a sense of purpose and a vision of the good which will come though their endeavours.
At our recent Leadership Induction Service, our new student leadership team were presented with their badges of office and each pledged their commitment to help our School community, to uphold the values of the School and the ethos of the Uniting Church. They will do this with integrity and honour, leading by example to the best of their ability. The School staff and students also pledged their support to our new student leadership team.
Our leaders have a wonderful opportunity to serve others and make a positive impact upon the lives of the student body. As they assume their responsibilities they need to consider the following questions:
- How will they exercise their leadership?
- What are their leadership aims and objectives?
- What do they wish to achieve as student leaders?
- And What will their legacy be to the School?
As we move further into the 21st Century, leaders will be those who empower others. How will our new team achieve this?
As our leaders commence their leadership roles I offer them three insights to assist them on their journey:
Firstly, have fortitude.
This refers to the emotional strength that allows someone to face adversity with courage. As a leader you will meet your fair share of challenges. You will encounter obstacles and stumbling blocks and sometimes even failures. Reflect on these obstacles and failures and see them as learning opportunities for improvement. As Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor who gave us the light bulb once said:
“I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Secondly, be passionate about what you do.
Don’t undertake tasks simply for the sake of doing so, or just because it’s the ‘popular’ thing to do. Understand and believe in what you are doing.
Albert Einstein, one of the greats of science, reflecting upon his abilities noted:
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”.
And thirdly, be relentless in your pursuit of excellence.
Don’t give up and don’t settle for mediocrity. The English crime fiction writer Arthur Conan Doyle (best known for his detective character – Sherlock Holmes) stated:
“mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognises genius.”
I encourage our new team to remember that if what you say and do inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more. Then you are a leader.
Thank you to the new student leaders who have taken the responsibility to serve others and to strive to make our School a finer place. I am very much looking forward to working with you over the coming year.