I recently read the article entitled "New Year, Less 'Leadership'" published on January 19, 2017. As I delved into the subject matter, I found myself feeling attacked to some degree. Who is this person writing for my school newspaper telling me that leadership at our school is a farce? Pulling one word quotes from our school website and ridiculing our president's X-Ring speech? However, my frustration quickly turned to motivation as I realized that an article published by our school newspaper would be best responded to through the same medium.
Thus my drafting began, and with no experience writing any sort of newspaper article I sought out some people I consider leaders in writing on campus. I talked to them and bounced my ideas off them, comparing them to the original article points I wished to disprove on behalf of those of us that believe that leadership should be a pillar of any academic institution.
I needed to show the campus that we are all leaders, whether we like it or not, and we have the opportunity to enhance or detract from our environment as we choose. I was compelled to demonstrate my own critical thought honed in Philosophy 100 to show the inconsistency of the author’s argument. I wished to address The Xaverian Weekly's choice to feature the crest of our Athletic Leadership Academy in this article. This is my way of showing leadership and defending my values.
Now I would like to clarify that my definition of leadership is not inherently positive or negative. Although nowadays the connotation of leadership tends to be good, we can find many objective examples of leaders who have had negative effects on their constituencies. Keeping this in mind, the leadership that I refer to in this argument is merely the act of 'leading' or having your actions and words affect other people.
Moving onto my arguments though, in our society today there is rarely a moment when a person is not being observed in some capacity. Whether that be sitting in class, walking around town, or having some drinks with friends, all of our actions are constantly being noted. So by definition, we are all role models of a sort for the people who surround us. As role models, we provide examples of both acceptable and unacceptable ways to conduct ourselves.
From this definition, it is clearly fallacious to think the effect of leadership is negated simply because if everyone is a leader, then no one is - it sounds more like a childish cop-out when you say it like that. I am reminded of Syndrome from The Incredibles, whose focus on others blinded him to his own power for good. In my mind, performing an action in the public forum could be considered leading, or even performing an action in private that affects the public, knowingly or not.
The article mentioned the logical inconsistency of having everyone be a leader. The author argues that it is logically false to have everyone be a leader, because having leaders necessitates having followers. But there is no proposition claiming that a leader cannot be both a leader and follower. I believe by necessity leaders must be followers as well in order to truly affect those they wish to lead. The best leaders do not put themselves above those they work with, but instead unify the feeling of the group from within. In order to be accepted within, they must also follow the culture and standards set by the group.
Additionally, StFX does not claim to make everyone in the world a leader, merely its students. Incoming students could already be considered leaders as they chose to attend a fairly remote school, which is apart from the norm. While on campus, my own anecdotal evidence finds that there are much higher numbers of social interactions per day than at larger schools. These interactions help train us in creating relationships, which is a vital skill for any aspiring leader.
And even if this compelling evidence does not convince you, if you adhered to the rule of generosity you would surely understand that regardless of the slogans of our university’s leadership campaign, there is no way that they truly believe everyone is going to become a model, idealistic, leadership prototype. For that to be a legitimate expectation is sorely far from all likelihood. Rather, everyone who leaves this school will have a better understanding of how to lead in their own, small way to positively impact their environments.
Though my critique of the article is finished, I have one final point to make. I’m disappointed in The Xaverian Weekly’s choice to feature the crest of the StFX Leadership Academy on this article about the concept of student-wide leadership on campus. The Leadership Academy is a thoroughly vetted program with counterparts at post-secondary institutions across North America.
I believe leadership is largely about education and the Leadership Academy presents a great opportunity to receive that education for those given the chance to participate. Creating compelled leaders will allow more people to empower themselves to lead whether as the ‘Rah, rah!’ kind, the kind that stay firmly grounded during a storm, or anywhere in between. That is how you create an open culture where ideas can be discussed and opinions shared.
Ultimately, I agree with some of the sentiment of the original article; I think StFX talks a big game about leadership. I truly believe there are people in this school working to unlock the leadership capabilities of the self-selecting student body that attends this fantastic institution. Our knowledge of those people should motivate us to reach that high leadership potential that they desire for us to achieve. Though I respect any conflicting opinion, I would urge you to think about how your opinion will shape the opinions of those you share it with. After all, in the age of communication, we are all leaders.