Last weekend, Troy hosted its annual leadership conference celebrating African-American history month. Students were able to participate in this event themed, “Overcoming the Community Crisis.”
In light of this, I talked to John Kline, the director of the institute for leadership development, about what makes an effective leader.
“One of the things leaders continuously have to do is to learn,” he said. “They learn from their successes and failure, and they also learn from other people, which means they always have to listen.”
When asked how a leader could balance learning and being an example simultaneously, he said, “Everybody makes mistakes. The question is, ‘Does a person learn from his or her mistakes?’ ”
“A leader cannot shove blame on other people. We would more readily follow a leader who takes responsibility. Leaders share credit and take blame.”
Kline highlighted the importance of delegation in effective leadership.
“The key to my success has come from having good people and making sure they can do the job,” Kline said. “Leaders must know they can’t do it all; therefore, leaders must delegate effectively and give people credit when things go right and not blame them when things go wrong.”
In his advice to leaders and potential leaders, he stressed the importance of servant leadership.
“The bottom line is you have to lead for the right reasons,” Kline stated. “The right reason is to help the people or the organization you are leading, serving. You serve while you are leading if you do it right. It all comes down to servant leadership.”
I was also able to talk to some student leaders about their views on effective student leadership.
“The key to being an effective student leader is taking constant feedback, be it positive or negative,” said Olivia Melton, a senior math and economics major from Orange Beach and president of the Student Government Association.
“The biggest challenge is balancing friendships with leadership when you have to be a leader to your peers,” Melton said, “ … connecting effectively with students constantly.”
Her advice to students regarding leadership was “Get involved, and do not be afraid to fail.”
“A good leader is willing to do what needs to get done — someone who genuinely cares about their followers and is willing to help and teach them along the way,” said Jeremiah Baky, a senior political science major from Dauphin Island and state chair for Students for Liberty.
“Students especially need to be open-minded so as not to succumb to the pitfalls of former generations’ ignorance; and most of all, we need to learn from others and be open to criticisms and new ways of doing things along the way,” he said.
“Attending the leadership conference was very inspiring for me,” said Michael Ingram, a freshman nursing major from Helena and a member of Freshman Forum. “I learned about the value of education and how it is what helps us to not simply point out problems, but to focus on developing solutions to them as well.”
“The knowledge I gained at the conference will help me better apply myself as a student in the classroom, as well as in leadership positions on campus.”
While I feel that there are different kinds of leadership, one thing that everyone should remember is that leadership is not about the leader, but the people under the leader. Good leaders focus on the success of their teams and not themselves.
Being a leader does not require you to be the guy up front. Often people who are not in official positions can provide good leadership by encouraging their peers or being an example. This is something that students can do in different organizations they are a part of and in classrooms.
“To lead people, walk beside them,” said philosopher Lau Tzu. “When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’ ”