2018 Scholarship Winner's Essay (Alex Simon)
What Makes a Leader
Leadership roles take a wide variety of forms in our society. Although a project manager working at a multinational corporation, a mayor of a small town, and a baseball coach seek to accomplish very different things, there are certain skills that all leaders must rely on to achieve success. A successful leader must act with integrity to earn the respect and trust of others who are needed to achieve the leader’s goals. A leader must also be resilient and future-oriented, so he/she is able to overcome the inevitable setbacks the leader will face.
Being trusted or respected by coworkers, employees, other leaders, etc. is vital to a leader’s ability to be successful, and leaders can earn others’ trust and respect by acting with integrity. To me, the word ‘integrity’ encompasses two distinct character traits: honesty and morality. An honest leader earns the trust of others by being upfront about the reasons behind his/her actions and though consistency in his/her words and actions. A moral leader earns the respect of others by first treating others with respect and by maintaining an environment that is consistent with the personal values of the leader and others. For example, although many thousands of people around the world hold political offices, only those who are honest about their intentions and maintain a consistent moral compass may be considered genuine and effective leaders.
At some point in time, even the best leaders will face setbacks while trying to achieve their goals. For example, a project manager may struggle to conform to time or budgetary constraints. In this type of situation, it is vital for the leader to be resilient. It is important for a leader to reflect on the past and to understand what changes he/she can make to avoid facing the same setbacks in the future. However, it is best to avoid dwelling on the past excessively, as it can be a source of unnecessary frustration and a waste of time and other resources. For example, after losing a game, a baseball coach who is an effective leader would likely talk to the players about the mistakes made in the game and how to avoid repeating the mistakes during the remainder of the season. A baseball coach that is not an effective leader might spend too much time criticizing the players instead of planning for how to proceed in the future.
Nearly every single person on Earth has the opportunity to assume a leadership role at some point in their life. However, simply taking on a leadership role does not immediately cause someone to be considered a true leader. By maintaining a future-oriented mindset and embodying the principles of resilience and integrity to achieve success in the leadership role, one can truly be considered a genuine and effective leader.