The Leadership Challenge

This semester, I am taking a class called “The Leadership Challenge.”  On the first day of class, we started by asking the questions: “What is a leader?”  “What characteristics does a leader have?”  “Who do you consider a leader in your life?” etc.  There are always people you know that you admire and look up to as a role model, but what TRULY makes a person a leader?

The first person that came to mind was my PR professor and faculty advisor for PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America).  Not only do people look up to him and admire him, but he is motivational, inspirational, and trustworthy.  When he has an idea, people take him seriously.  When he said he will do something to help you out, he will ACTUALLY do it (for example, I needed a recommendation letter last minute once, and he had it to me in less than a week).  When you work on a project with him and seek his advice, not only does he provide great ideas, but he is always confident that it will get done.  As they say, he “walks the talk.”

At my last internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, my supervisor was looked upon as a leader.  Whenever I said that I was his intern, I was immediately taken more seriously because of his positive reputation.  He had proven himself throughout the years to others and shown that he was dedicated to his work and helping others, reliable, and truly an inspiration.  When someone needed help on an assignment, they knew they could count on him for insight and a job well done.

When I look at the reputation of these two leaders, I strive to act in the same way.  I try to motivate and inspire others and show that I will complete tasks that I say I will complete.  I try to ask everyone’s opinion about certain topics before moving onto a different discussion.  I try to show others that I am trustworthy.  I try to “walk the talk.”  A true leader is able to show these qualities and more to not only complete tasks by himself/herself but to inspire confidence in others.

I started reading the textbook for the semester called The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner (http://www.leadershipchallenge.com/WileyCDA/).  They cite examples from corporate executives where these leaders did not show that they were working hard to earn a promotion but because they truly cared about their work and their cause.  They speak about the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart.  By employing these 5 examples (and of course expanding on their meanings), companies are able to perform better and leaders are able to set a better example.

What does the word “leader” mean to you?

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