What is a leader? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a leader is “a person who leads.” If you are thinking that the definition is vague, you are not the only one. In the 21st century, the term ‘leader’ revolves around more than being a person who leads.
So, what does it take to be a good leader? Over the next two articles, I would like to share 5 points based on my experiences as being in student leadership for four years (serving in both senior and junior positions), an executive of the Junior Debate Club, a representative for the Seoul Youth Council, a student editor of the Herald Insight, and being an active leader in many extracurricular activities in general. Although my experiences may be limited, I hope that it can inspire other young citizens to take initiative in leadership roles.
1. Failure is the key to success.
As cliché as it gets, this is something that I had to learn the hard way. Many people, especially younger ones, find it difficult to understand the true meaning behind this common aphorism. If you are prepared for failure, you can achieve greater things. If you try very hard to avoid failure, it is likely that you will not get the results that you want.
Failure does not always equate in devastating consequences like rejection, but can be many things on different levels. For example, while I served as the Senior Senator (equivalent to a ‘President’ position), my position was jeopardized early in the year for ‘abuse of power.’ I was charged of abusing my power for not knowing proper manual/code of conduct as I have asked two teachers to excuse two students out of class for a meeting. I was charged twice of helping my partner do her work in sending delayed emails as it was ‘beyond my duty.’ This ‘failure’ resulted in me always clarifying, following up on matters, and made myself fully aware of the powers and duties of my positions I was entitled to.
I have lost in two consecutive elections to the same opponent for the same position of Class President. It was an utter disappointment and I was frustrated that I could not change the matters I saw that needed to be addressed in my opponent’s first year in office. However, what I realized in this process was that my election pledge was not what the students were feeling and wanted. My peers voted on a person who wanted to maintain the status quo. It became clear to me that I needed to change my perspective in matching what the students believed needed to be addressed as the President is the representative of the students.
No matter how big or small you fail, if you make the most out of it, the experience and what you take out of it will make you grow as a leader.
2. Surround yourself with “good” people
Growing up under a Western education, the number one thing English teachers stressed was to not use the word “good.” So why do I use it now? It is because good people means many things. They do not limit to your adherents, instead they may be your critics, rivals, mentors, and mentees. People that are supportive of you are people that want you to succeed and will agree with you under any circumstances. However, they can hurt you in the long run. Instead, surround yourself with a decent balance of critics and opposition as they will strengthen you and make you accomplish even greater things.
Your rivals will be better at some things than you are and have qualities that many people respect. To some extent, knowing what you lack and the willingness to learn will set you apart from other leaders. People who challenge your ideas and thoughts, give a different insight to the matter at hand are the people you should listen more to. Seek help and advice from mentors and mentees. Mentors will support you, guide you, and set you on the right direction as they have all done it before you.
Seek help and learn from your mentees. Having a strong relationship with your mentees is important. As I was leading the Junior Debate Club in the last school year, the biggest thing I have felt was that I learned so much from young middle school students. Typically, people would imagine that it is always the mentee learning from the mentor. However, as I was leading the club, I can confidently state otherwise. The students’ dedication, enthusiasm, and passion for the matters debated were contagious and made me realize the power of debating.
Having a balance in life is important. Surrounding yourself with a balance of supporters, critics, and resourceful people will allow you to make the best decisions in given situations.
Stay tuned for the next segment to read more.
Grade (rising) 10th
Seoul Foreign School
Jason Whang firstname.lastname@example.org
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