By: Ava Johnson-Baker
Election years like 2020 cause one to consider leadership styles and definitions, but this is not an article about politics. This article will illustrate the many lessons learned about leadership from our very own Shorecrest student leaders. Who knows, we may have the opportunity to vote for one of our Shorecrest leaders in the future. The hope is that this article helps you reflect on how leadership begins in high school and how high school decisions set the stage for future growth and development.
What leadership position do you hold?
- JC – “My name is Johnathan Currie. I’m seventeen years old and am a senior here at Shorecrest. I hold the position of co-president of the Student Council, and I’m just happy to be here.”
- JM – “My name is Julia Marquis. I’m seventeen years old and I am a senior at Shorecrest. I am the president of the environmental club, the co-president of TrebleCrest, and the Troupe treasurer of Troupe 3140.”
- SR – “My name is Shannon Ross. I’m seventeen years old and I’m a senior at Shorecrest. I am the Thespian Troupe 3140 president, secretary of the Key Club, and I’ve had a few other various leadership positions, but those are my positions for this year.”
How do you define leadership in your own words?
- JC – “Being a good leader is being a good follower. It is being able to listen to people, understand what they want, understand what needs they have, what problems they’re dealing with, and then using your position to address those thoroughly. I think leadership so many times gets caught up in being this overarching persona and having massive crowds and commanding an audience, but I think it’s important to establish those connections with your people so to speak, and follow their lead in that sense.”
- JM – “Funnily enough I just wrote a few college essays about leadership. I think leadership is kind of the act of taking what’s best for the group, and kind of being the person to put that into motion. It’s like being a representative for the people that you’re leading.”
- SR – “In the shortest way, I was probably saying inspiration. I think good leaders are people that encourage others to better themselves and to work together to better their communities, so I think it’s a being sure of yourself as a person, but also showing other people how to find that within themselves.”
What is most challenging about being a leader?
- JC – “It is so hard to please everyone. And people that know me will know that I try so hard to do that, so acknowledging that that’s never going to happen and that you need to be proud of yourself and recognize that you’re putting your best foot forward and working as hard as you can. Learning to deal with that and understand and accept that has been my biggest struggle as a leader especially in this kind of community.”
- JM – “I think the thing that’s most challenging can be getting things off the ground. Especially this year with COVID, there’s a lot of extra barriers that you have to get through in order to do anything. Another challenging thing is definitely getting people motivated. Even if it’s something that you’re really excited about, a lot of times it takes a little bit more than that to get other people excited as well. That is definitely a difficult aspect for me because something that I might try really hard to get going might not land so well with the people that I’m trying to get it across to.”
- SR – “People who are close minded I think, because it’s difficult to promote a sense of family and community with people who are just not open to the idea of anyone else’s opinions. That just makes it hard to foster connections.”
What do you still want to learn about leadership?
- JC – “Everything. Do we ever stop learning anything? I think every single person that I get to work with and every single opportunity I have, whether it’s homecoming or a service project, they all bring something different to the table and there’s always something you can take from that and apply it to your future endeavors.”
- JM – “I really want to be a leader who is both approachable but also administrative. I want to be flexible in the way of being able to make concrete decisions that people will listen to, but also being the person that people aren’t too intimidated to ask questions and different things like that, so I think those are the two things that I’m still really working on and want to just gain more experience in those areas.”
- SR – “I think I would still like to learn how to connect with people in a deeper sense. I think I’m a very friendly and open person, but I think also part of being a good leader is being somebody that everyone can confide in and feel comfortable with.”
Which national leader is your role model?
- JC – “I’m going to go with Bob Iger. He was the chairman and CEO of the Disney company for a long time and just recently stepped down. Business speaking, he sort of elevated the company to its new status. They were facing a decent amount of financial peril at one point and he sort of turned the company around, but more than that he sort of personified what I talked about in the beginning about establishing those connections with your people.”
- JM – “Well, if I could say a fictional role model, I would definitely say Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. She’s such a motivated and caring leader and that’s definitely something that I strive to be, so I do actually try to model my leadership after her. Now, if I would have to choose a national leader, someone who has been really inspirational to me is Greta Thunberg because obviously she’s all for climate justice, and that’s something that I’m really passionate about, but also the fact that she’s my age and was able push through so many barriers. That’s just something that I really admire and she’s just doing a great job with everything that she’s trying to do. I think her impact is really great and it’s definitely something that, well maybe not on that large of a scale, but something that I hope to do someday.”
- SR – “I don’t really pay as much attention to leadership as I should, but I’d say that Greta Thunberg is very inspiring.”
Why do you consider them your role model?
- JC – “He wrote a book that I read recently that was a memoir of sorts called The Ride of a Lifetime, which I definitely recommend reading, and in it he talked about a story where a young child passed away due to an alligator attack at Disney World, and he described in detail his phone call with that child’s family afterwards. Just reading that and feeling the emotion come through is so powerful to me, and knowing that he has the ability to do that definitely left a mark on how I view leadership.”
- JM – “I think that since she represents such an underrepresented topic that’s so controversial at the moment, it’s inspiring to me that she’s able to get her point across to so many people.”
- SR – “She just has had so much self awareness about the world, environment, and leadership and community, especially at the age she is, and it’s really inspiring to me. I think that’s one of the best qualities in a leader. She’s just made so many other people our age aware of not only the problems, but aspire to work and fix them.”
Give an example of how they embody leadership in your opinion. What did you think of it?
- JC – “I think he has a very methodical approach to things. He identifies ten keys to leadership, I couldn’t name them all off the top of my head, but he approaches all the situations with the same sort of foundations in mind and he sticks true to those beliefs and those morals. To me, that is another important part of leadership is not swaying one way when you’re dealing with one issue and another way with a different one. No matter what he’s working on, whether it’s opening a theme park of dealing with a customer service complaint or releasing a movie, you can tell that he does always have that same methodical and very human approach.”
- SR – “Truly, she’s just such an inspiration, and she seems so level headed. She knows how to bring people together, and she’s basically our age so she can easily relate to young people better. She’s definitely inspirational and encouraging.”
Has that leader influenced your leadership choices? Explain.
- JC – “I’m a business man by nature, and so is he. Reading a book about how much he cares about the individual and how much he believes optimism and communication and that kind of stuff influences good leadership definitely resonated with me. The fact that he sort of dealt with adversity and those sorts of things left an impression on me. Seeing how he worked his way from the bottom is definitely something that impressed me probably more than the other two because there’s always this strive to just get a position of power and to hold it and to have it consume you, but it’s important to remember where you come from, it’s important to be on the other side of it. So, that would be how Bob Iger has impressed and influenced me as a leader.”
- JM – “When I first started out in leadership positions, I think I had a more aggressive approach to it than I do now, and I think that she also has a very aggressive approach, but I think for what she’s doing that having that aggressiveness is important. She knows her audience very well, and I think sometimes that aggression is what the world needs and those hard facts. I definitely think it’s about knowing your situation.”
- SR – “Watching her speak or reading the things she writes shows that she has this very forwardly mature mindset for someone her age. She holds herself in this regard that’s not pompous, but more composed and she deals with a lot of adults who run their own organizations, but is still able to connect with them well enough to work with them. When I work with adults, I try to use that mindset in order to better my connections with them.”
As you can see, our student body leaders each have their own ideas about leadership. The qualities named are all slightly different, proving everyone has a different perspective and standard. Society tends to expect perfection from leaders. There’s little grace for leaders, and yet the same leaders are expected to give grace when they encounter a lack of perfection. Leaders, it seems, have to be ‘superhuman.’ They’re not supposed to make mistakes, and when they do, the media (social media and mainstream) can be unforgiving. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the golden rule: do to others as you have done to yourself. It seems that social media often promotes the destruction of people rather than the lifting up of others. Isn’t a leader someone who helps others realize their full potential with a servant heart and without need for acclaim? This writer thinks that is the truest definition of leadership.
Leadership opportunities abound at Shorecrest. If you seek to be a leader, consult those who are in the position you seek. If you are critical of a leader’s decisions, consider the challenge of being a leader and seek to be a supporter and teammate instead of a distractor. If you can see a future that includes leadership, run the race to completion, seek opportunities, gather knowledge and find quality mentors who have leadership experience.