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Four Years at the Mount

On Leadership

February 2015

Learning and leading

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

Leaders are everywhere. Some are hidden in the hectic hustle and bustle of everyday life and others are more present, those who we recognize and identify as leaders. And then there are those who we know to be leaders but we sometimes forget until we look back and realize just what it was they did to show us who we are. I find that I cannot continue to write about leaders without first mentioning the most inspiring leader in my life, my sister. She has always embodied everything I think of when I hear the word "leader." She is strong, determined, encouraging, kind, and able to bring together everything from ideas to people. When someone hears the word "leader," the people who jump to the forefront of most peopleís minds are those who are directly in the limelight, attempting to change or guide their communities through political, religious, or monetary means. My sister is no exception. The hidden leaders are the ones we take for granted, the volunteers and workers at soup kitchens, half-way houses, and nursing homes, those wonderful people who lead their community by example, inspiring young and old alike to get involved in the community and the world to make it a better place.

It is the unsung leaders that have the biggest aspect on our lives. Parents, for instance, are the first role models to whom we are introduced. They clear the path to what we want and sometimes show us what we donít. They teach us about the small parts of the world and lead us tentatively into them, introducing new and exciting things and leading us away from possible dangers. They are the ones who paint the picture of what a home and family is; they are the first to lead us to our self-discovery; they are the first to show us how to treat others and how we should be treated. We are then escorted into the wide world by our teachers, who show us the opportunities and possibilities that exist within our world. Teachers are, in my opinion, the most important and influential leaders. They guide those in their care to the various paths they may take and arm them with the tools necessary to make it through. Looking back, I see what my parents and teachers (even the teachers that I did not care for at the time) have done to help guide me to this point in my life. If you think about it, even friendship contains elements of co-leadership. Friends help you through your low points and you help them through theirs. When you start to lose sight of what you want in the confusing flurry of existence, you can count on your friends to lead you through with an outstretched hand, a word of comfort, and a wisecrack, and they can count on you to do the same.

Leadership can be an extremely daunting idea. For me, the very word once carried the weight of responsibility and a certain sense of required control, coupled with managerial know how and a very visible pedestal. In high school I used to find the idea of being a leader downright terrifying. So, instead, I would work from behind the scenes (literally in the sense that I did in fact work backstage at a theater). I never pictured myself as a leader so I continued staying out of the limelight and volunteered when I could, not even realizing that I was becoming a leader in my community.

It was not until I came to Mount St. Maryís that I discovered this, and found that I could not only continue leading in my community, but also grow in that leadership role and help others to do the same thing. To me, Mount St. Maryís provided me with so many marvelous opportunities, from the unwavering support and numerous campus programs, to resources that connect students to internships and possible job opportunities.

But I found that our university imparts so much more to their students. When I first heard about the four pillars (Discovery, Leadership, Faith, and Community), I was confused as to how someone could teach leadership. I always believed it to be an inherent trait, one that you were either born with or without. I have discovered, however, that I was wrong. Since coming to the Mount, the thought of leadership is becoming less and less terrifying. After listening to my professors and fellow classmates explain leadership principles, I have found that leadership exists not in a solitary sense, where there is only you to carry out a world change, but instead in the realm of solidarity, a place where like-minded people work together to lead their communities to a better and brighter future. Mount St. Maryís shows that becoming a leader does not mean changing the world all by yourself, but rather providing small changes for the betterment of the community. Others will support you along the way, and you will lead others to do the same. Slowly but surely, I am becoming a leader, learning as I go and leading by example.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

Army Doctrine and custom teaches to "lead from the front." This is taken literally in formation and figuratively to mean that we should lead by example. As a part of the Army ROTC program, we are taught every day how to be leaders in preparation for our coming careers as officers. Before we are ever taught about tactics or branches, we are taught about leadership styles and the qualities of a good leader. We see leadership everywhere we look; we learn the 7 Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage, exemplified by the acronym LDRSHIP. Each week we are given opportunities to exhibit and practice our leadership abilities. While all the leadership exercises, opportunities, and lessons I do during training are crucial, I believe I cannot stand alone. I know that my leadership training and growth is actually coming from others leading by example.

From the seniors in the program to the cadre, there are other people leading me every day, and their examples are far more valuable than any PowerPoint lesson could ever be. Instead of reading about an objectively good leader or watching slides about how to direct others, I watch the best leaders every day. The cadre in our ROTC program embody the idea that one should lead by example, and not only do they follow all written rules and standards, but they also go above and beyond to cultivate a unique environment within our program. We learn by the example of two people who have firsthand experience and knowledge of what our lives will someday be like. They have lived it, and they have held the positions we have held, but again, they do more. They donít just show us how to be solid officers; they show us how to create a safe environment and how to protect each other. There are daily examples of this but I think the best ones come from SFC Beatty, who is a cadre member in the program who teaches the MS Is and IIsófreshmen and sophomores.

Because I didnít join the ROTC until my second semester of freshman year, this past semester I had to make up the fall freshman course that I had missed. As a result, I was in class with the current freshmen as well as with the sophomores for a semester. Throughout the course we learned necessary introductory leadership things that weíll hear approximately a million times over the next few years, but there were a few times when we saw a unique form of leadership that I donít think can be taught in a presentation. After a day of learning map reading, Sergeant Beatty asked the other two MS IIs in the class and me to stay after. He told us he noticed one of the freshmen seemed to keep to himself a lot and had made remarks about eating alone. He continued asking us to make sure we look out for him and include him in what we were doing, both within and outside of the program. This hit me in a weird way. This was truly caring for someone, and thatís not always what the Army is recognized for. Here was someone who had probably never been bullied or left out in his life, because Iím almost positive he has been winning fights since birth, going out of his way to ask us to look out for someone who doesnít seem to fit in. The lessons in leadership learned in those two minutes were more than I could have gotten from a whole class. Truly look out for others, care about others in a real and applicable way, pay attention to peopleís habits and lifestyle, and be proactive by taking action before anything goes wrong. In that moment, all of this and so much more were shown in action.

Later, we, as a program, faced an obstacle. What was important was not the incident, though, but the way I saw everyone come together in a way that resembled more of a family than a program. I can give credit to my peers for looking out for each other, or to the upperclassmen for their offers of support, whether in the form of homework help or help in times of trouble, but the truth is that it comes from the leadership in the program. We watch every day as the people who lead us set an example to be more than we need to be and do more than what is required of us. By doing it themselves, they teach us to dig deeper, care more, work harder and essentially just be better in everything we do.

I donít know if youíve ever had the chance to experience what leading by example is like. Most of you reading this have probably had coaches, teachers, and mentors who might not always live out what they teach. Others have probably had people who live as an example of what they teach. There is no question that the latter is the more effective style. Not only have leaders like that given me the knowledge I need to grow into being a leader, but theyíve also shown me how to carry it out. Because of this program and these leaders, Iíve become more of a leader than I ever thought I could be. When I started college I wasnít a leader; I would have never stepped up to do the things I can now. I was Secretary of just about every club and activity in high school simply because I was scared to run for President.

I donít think I would be scared anymore. I owe that to the men and women who teach by example every day and prove to me that I have the ability to lead people, and someday Iíll be able to do it well. Until that day, Iíll continue to learn from the people who have it mastered.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary

Mountward Bound and Beyond

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

My time at the Mount has been dedicated to becoming a leader. Though this transformation was impacted by multiple factors, the greatest impact has come from the Office of Social Justiceís leadership development program: CORE. CORE is a group made up of student leaders who are passionate about addressing and educating others about issues of social justice. The CORE leaders within the Office of Social Justice lead service experiences focusing on a current or past social justice concern. Throughout my past three years at the Mount, my weekends have been filled with long days and early mornings learning about group dynamics and facilitation. I have learned about safe food preparation and first aid as well as a vast array of silly icebreakers. It has taken me a while, but I have found that at the root of leadership and the desire to help others is self-awareness, being mentally aware of where you stand emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and gaining an understanding of your strengths and gifts as well as places in which you need to grow. It is through acknowledging and keeping in mind all of these aspects that you are able to truly find yourself and develop into a good leader.

My freshman year in CORE consisted of training to develop strong leadership qualities and logistical aspects of leading students and service experiences. After my training I was given my first trip that would put all of my skills to test. I was to lead Mountward Bound, the pre-orientation trip for the incoming freshman class. This was the same experience that I had gone on as a freshman, an experience that had awakened the love of service within me. I found out that as a sophomore I would lead twenty-four freshmen on a similar weeklong experience. Since I had already attended Mountward Bound, I knew what to expect as a participant, but I was unsure as to what to expect as a leader. Like most new experiences, I was both nervous and excited. I was excited to play an influential role in the lives of freshmen students but worried that I wouldnít have the skills I needed to be a good leader and to make sure that everyone had a beneficial experience.

When I arrived on campus in the middle of August, I was filled with excitement over the start of a new year. I settled into my new dorm room and eagerly met with the other CORE leaders in the office. We went over all the details that we had discussed throughout the summer and got everything ready for the arrival of our participants. When Sunday morning rolled around, I woke up bright and early, ready to meet members of the incoming freshman class. In the afternoon the twenty-four Mountward Bound Serve participants all filed into the Mount Cafť carrying duffle bags and pillows. They sat down at the booths with their parents and younger siblings, smiling timidly at one another. After discussing the important information regarding the trip, we loaded up the three white vans and headed off to Summit Lake.

I was worried that they wouldnít, but my leadership skills kicked in and soon enough I was helping students with their adjustment while incorporating the importance of service to others and meaningful discussion about college life. It turned out that all of those weekends I spent working to learn and improve my leadership skills had paid off. With the support of the other leaders, I helped to lead a successful pre-orientation trip.

That first year leading Mountward Bound was definitely a learning experience. It is easy to talk about how you would handle a situation, but it is much different when you are meeting that situation face to face. Within the first week of leading a trip I came to realize that leadership is made up of a bunch of different traits and it comes in many different forms. A leader must be confident, yet vulnerable, funny, yet firm. Leadership is a balance and a constant adjustment process. Leadership takes practice and determination but it can be one of the most rewarding roles that one takes on.

Reflecting back on my three years at the Mount so far, it is interesting to look at my leadership development through my role with Mountward Bound. During my freshman year I was only a participant. I was actively involved but unsure of myself and the traits I possessed. My sophomore year was my first time being on Mountward Bound as a leader and I was hesitant, unsure I would have the skills I needed to make it a success. Much to my delight, I helped to lead a meaningful experience and gain confidence in myself along the way. When the start of my junior year rolled around I was planning to lead Mountward Bound for a second time. This time was much smoother since my courage, self-assurance, and leadership skills had grown tremendously. Next year, I am expected to help lead Mountward Bound for the final time. This will be bittersweet for me, but I will be able to look back on Mountward Bound fondly for helping me discover my passions and enhancing my leadership capabilities. Mountward Bound has challenged me to take on many roles, and it has taught me various skills that I have used beyond this pre-orientation trip and will continue to use in my daily life.

One of the many things that the Mount has given me is the opportunity to realize my leadership potential. The Office of Social Justice and the CORE program continue to challenge me to be the best leader that I am able to become. Every day, my leadership role further develops through the situations and experiences that I face. I am consistently asked to put on my "leadership shoes" and help to establish a path for myself and for others. John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, once said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." Adams sums it up well. A leader does not have to be someone who goes out and changes the world, impacts hundreds of lives, or leads a weeklong trip; a leader is simply someone who encourages others to flourish. Helping others to discover their inner potential and assisting them in their journey to reach it is leadership at its finest.

Throughout the month of February, and the rest of the months of the year, let us try to be an inspiration for others through our thoughts, words, and actions so that they may desire to dream, learn, do, and become more.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

New year, new leaders

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Leadership is a term often thrown around by self-help books and motivational speakers the world over. Despite just how often the term is used, we seemed to have lost much of the wordís meaning. Nowadays anyone can be a leader; the concept is applied in a vast number of ways, so much so that its meaning has been diluted.

Perhaps it is because of my chosen degree, but to me, the idea of taking command both of others and of a situation has started to appear more like a social construction rather than actual role that is set in stone. This got me thinking. If there is no such thing as true "leadership," if all that this term encompassed was created by human beings and not set in stone, then what is it that gives someone the quintessential characteristics of a leader? I decided to draw on my knowledge of history and my own personal experience (limited though both factors may be) and try to isolate the fundamental traits of this social construction.

1. A Desire to Serve.

To paraphrase a popular Nazarene folk-preacher, "The last shall be first and the first shall be last." While often used as an adage with regards to humility, it also fits a general trend that appears throughout history: the best leaders are ones who serve something greater then themselves. Consider for example two historical figures as different as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Vladimir Lenin. Despite being separated by skin color, time, and geography, both of these gentlemen got thousands of people to follow their examples, and by doing so, changed the face of the world. The thing that united them was also the thing that allowed them to be so utterly successful: they wanted to serve. For Lenin, it was an ideal. He was a man driven and defined by his convictions that a communist system of government could lift his people out of depression. King was similarly pushed by a desire to see all men achieve equal rights. While they were both flawed, simple human beings, they were both bound to a cause greater than themselves. By all historical accounts, it is that overarching goal that gave them the strength they needed to succeed.

It is entirely possible that someone can develop a real talent and opportunity for leadership. If an individual is driven by a desire to see the rest of their staff succeed, to watch them grow and become more cohesive together, then that person is in fact on the steps towards leadership.

2. An Urge to Utilize the Opinions of Others.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt may have been one of the greatest presidents to have ever graced the White House, and while he achieved many important things during his unprecedented four terms, his example was perhaps his greatest legacy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt prided himself not on being the smartest person in the room, but on surrounding himself with the smartest people he could gather. His "think tank" was an impressive gathering of engineers, social philosophers, and economist men whose advice was heeded by the man who sought to govern and govern well. Roosevelt, like other great men, had more than his fair share of flaws. However, he was still dedicated to using the opinions of others to supplement his own limited knowledge. As Roosevelt himself said, "The most important single ingredient in the formula to success is knowing how to get along with people."

The lesson can be easily applied to our own lives. If anyone wishes to attain a level of personal and professional growth, they must take into account the opinion of those they wish to lead.

3. An Acceptance of Change.

Rush, in the classic song, "Todayís Tom Sawyer," said that "changes arenít permanent but change is." Aside from satisfying my love of using rock band references, Rush has an excellent point. Great leaders do not stray away from doing something wildly different, even if doing so seems crazy at the time. Consider for example the actions of George Washington in his first term as president. One of his most far reaching and smartest decisions was to force America out of foreign politics at a time when there were many countries that were vying for an alliance of some sort with America. At the time, it was part and parcel for leaders to make binding and often costly alliances as a way to cement a countryís place in the world order. Washingtonís decision was to some a wild departure from the normal diplomatic procedure of the day. However crazy the decision to change major policy may have appeared, it was one that actually allowed America to survive its infancy relatively unscathed.

In a similar way, leaders should be encouraged to embrace change and create a culture that allows fluid development.

Hopefully you have found these little vignettes on leadership informative. In this New Year, it is important to remember that it is never too late to develop and change into the person you want to be. Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

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