How can we create a community without leaders? What does it mean to be a leader? When we ask highly involved students if they consider themselves a student leader, they often they tell us they don’t. What is it about the term “leader” that intimidates students to take ownership for this role? Why is it that many students need to be told they are leaders and provided extensive amounts of training on leadership before they acknowledge the role that leadership involvement plays in their lives?
Leadership can be difficult to define. Is it a set of skills? A frame of mind? Do you claim that you are a leader? Or is it a role given to you by others? Residence Life leadership advisors and established leaders would say “yes” to all of these questions... and more.
Leadership is a way of life. Leaders make a commitment to themselves and others in an intentional way. One does not need a title to lead. Leadership is not about taking complete control but about working collaboratively with others. Leadership does not mean you are solely responsible for a task but that you are taking the initiative to coordinate, delegate, follow-through and ensure completion for a responsibility—whether a task or a larger goal or vision.
Leaders know how to lead and how to follow when other are leading. When a team of leaders gets together, they split up the work and the responsibility. As a team, they are all committed to the larger vision and goals of the group. They work together to make sure that all the tasks and responsibilities are completed and the group experiences success. Sometimes a leader is the coordinator and leads the group’s efforts. Sometimes the leader steps backs and allows others to lead and becomes an involved follower—role modeling for others how to be a strong participant. No leader should ever lead all the time!