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Four Years at the Mount

Our Mount writers reflect on the ways they have seen, practiced and experienced leadership in unique ways as they prepare and anticipate the inauguration of our next President of the United States this month.

Leadership in action

January 2017

Dr. Dorsey

Angela Tongohan.
MSM Class of 2020

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ĖJohn Quincy Adams

The first semester of my freshman year is over, and I have just started to get used to life in college. It has been quite the ride. Leaving home, meeting new people, getting used to unfamiliar responsibilities, and sticking to self-made routines piled on top of school work and studying have made these past five months feel like a mere few weeks.

Time went by so fast, yet so much has happened.

Freshmen at Mount St. Maryís University are required to take a symposium class. The class is English-based. We read stories and books, then analyze and synthesize the meanings that we have extracted from them. Sometimes, we may write a paper or two. Our first assignment for symposium was a biographical narrative. I wasnít very excited for it.

I entered college as a biology major. Ever since I was a young girl, my mother wanted me to go to med school. It was never something forced upon me, but rather an ever-present subject she hoped for and encouraged. I wasnít against the idea, and I think, in some ways, I always knew that I would eventually end up in medicine somehow. But for the longest time, I wanted to be a writer. For however long I knew I would eventually be a doctor, was the same amount of time I knew I loved to write.

However, when I first entered symposium class, I hadnít written for a very long time.

My narrative was about a teacher I had in high school. An English teacher, to be specific. She was an intelligent woman whose mind held as much information about English as my textbook did. You could ask her about Dickens or Austen, Shakespeare or Poe, and she would be able to spend hours praising them and their skills.

But if you asked her about your own writingÖ well, letís just say I never felt good about myself or the papers I wrote after meeting with her.

After high school, I had given up on writing. The multiple Cís and Dís from her class had convinced me that I was not meant to write. My aspirations of becoming a writer were thrown away, and I focused myself on a career in medicine.

And for some time, I believed that that would be the end of it. That is, until my professor became Dr. Peter Dorsey.

Dr. Dorsey is an easygoing man and is the Dean of Liberal Arts, so he always shows up to class in a suit, and he lugs around a satchel filled with papers.

Not once did Dr. Dorsey make me feel bad about my writing. He only showed me ways that I could improve it. When I made a mistake, he wouldnít make me feel like I was a terrible writer, but rather guide me so I wouldnít make that mistake again.

Dr. Dorsey helped rekindle my love for writing. He allowed me to write with my own personal style instead of trying to make me write the way he writes. He supported and encouraged all my ideas, as well as the rest of the classí, and simply made writing fun.

I found myself making a bigger effort to write well. I appreciated his criticisms because I knew that it was helping me become a better writer.

He recommended me to the Dean of English, and after a few meetings with her, I had decided to double major in English and Biology. He was also the one who presented the opportunity to write for this newspaper, it is also him that boosted my morale, and gave me the confidence to try and apply.

Dr. Dorsey has played such an integral part in my writing career within the span of a few months, which only proves how much our teachers can impact our lives.

Teachers are some of the biggest influences on our lives as students. They are the forefront leaders on our journeys towards our future careers. I believe very strongly that teachers can influence the direction a student decides to take in his life.

We look towards them for inspiration and support, for guidance and knowledge. We spend more time with them than we do our own parents. Our teachers play a vital role in how we shape out to be in the future.

It takes a certain type of leadership skill to be able to deal with so many students, but also continue to teach us. I think we often forget how much of a sacrifice teachers make. For every test we take, there is a teacher that has to grade it. For every class we have, there is a teacher that has to plan it. And for every question we ask, there is a teacher that has to be able to answer it.

Teachers have the ability to inspire, to guide, to support, and to teach future leaders of our world. It is the knowledge and skills that students learn from our teachers today that can help make a more prosperous tomorrow.

So, Iíd like to thank all those unsung heroes, our teachers, for guiding us towards a better future and life. Thank you, Dr. Dorsey.

Read other articles by Angela Tongohan


Leadership: A self help guide

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSM Class of 2019

A couple of weeks ago, my dad and I went on a road trip from Pennsylvania to Detroit. Our most substantive conversations always arise on road trips, and on this particular drive, we discussed this monthís article topic: Leadership. I consider my dad to be a great leader, both per-sonally and professionally, so naturally, I gained a lot from our 500 mile conversation. Our talk revolved around a couple of key questions: Who are the best leaders and what makes them so successful? Likewise, who are the worst leaders, and what makes them ineffective?

As we drove over mountains and through plains, we talked about the leaders we know. I con-sidered people whom I know through school, athletics, and work. I also thought about individu-als whom I have never met personally, but have observed in the media, professional athletics, and politics. I concluded that the best leaders are the most virtuous, hardworking, positive, char-ismatic and resilient people on the planet. In contrast, the worst leaders are manipulative, lethar-gic, indecisive, temperamental and easily demoralized. But where do I fit into this equation?

By the end of our car ride, I had generated a blueprint -- a type of "self help" guide -- to help me grow into the best leadership I can be. It begins with the notion that everyone is a leader.

Everyone is a Leader

Among the many definitions of leadership, I am particularly drawn to one written by John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, which simply states that "leadership is influence." Regardless of whether or not the influence is positive or negative, if you cause someone to think or act differently, you are leading them. From the jovial cashier who makes you smile every time you see her to the professor who works your finger to the bone every day, people who cause you to think or act a certain way are the leaders in your life. With that being said, there are a couple key notions to consider.

Carefully consider the people and things that lead you. From music, television, and litera-ture to employers, friends, and family, think about the influence that they have in your life. Is there a way to root out the negative influences and instead invest in the positive influences? Cer-tainly, this sounds clichť, but itís important because the people and things who lead you will in-evitably influence how you lead others.

You are a leader because you have influence over people in your lives. Thus, you have the responsibility to act accordingly. Who do you have influence on in your life? Your children? Your co-workers? Your spouse? Leadership will look differently in all of these contexts, but itís important to never underestimate the power you have as a leader in your day-to-day life.

Good leadership is not synonymous with effective leadership

Before you begin reflecting upon your leadership style, it is important to differentiate good leadership and effective leadership. Good leadership evokes virtuous action while effective leadership evokes impactful action. Leaders can be both "good" and "effective," but good people are not always the most effective leaders and vice versa.

To highlight this point, think about two diametrically opposed leaders-- Hitler and Mother Teresa, for example. Hitler, though nefarious, was an effective leader. He caused a number of people to adopt in anti-Semitic ideas while also sparking global action; a massive number of people were influenced by Hitler, even if they did not have a strong stance for or against his policies. Mother Teresa, on the other hand, embodied the qualities of both a good and effective leader as she sparked virtue on a massive scale. Her legacy continues even after her death as the Sisters of Charity betters the world day in and day out.

The best leaders, like Mother Teresa, are both virtuous in their motives and effective in implementing them. What measures can you take to optimize your leadership? Donít worry; weíll get there.

Being both a good and effective leader

In order to optimize your leadership, first identify your level of effectiveness and virtue. I can bet that your level will fall somewhere in the large gap between Mother Teresa and Hitler. But where?

Compile a list of ten qualities that you want to radiate. From this list, pick your top five strengths, and come up with ways to bolster them. Likewise, identify five weakest qualities and think about qualities that would foil them. Once the list is numbered, place it in a place you will encounter on a daily basis.

As you go through your morning routine, think about the opportunities that will arise in the day ahead of you, and consider ways exercise your strengths and build upon your weak-nesses. Perhaps you generate ways to practice patience before your kids go to school, discipline on your car ride to the grocery store, and competency at your workplace. Then, as you go about your nightly routine later that day, reflect upon your day, specifically in regards the qualities that you wanted to accentuate. Overtime, your list may evolve as you begin to notice new strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, this simple, daily practice will inevitably help you become more intentional in your influence towards others.

Leadership is a lifelong process

Your leadership will evolve or devolve based on the people and things that you permit to influence you and based on the way you handle the opportunities in front of you. Optimizing your leadership certainly wonít be a cakewalk. It will come without a fair amount of trial and error, but donít be intimidated. In my opinion, the best leaders are lifelong learners.

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.


Following the leader

Sarah Muir
Class of 2018

So, the old year has been ushered out with the usual fanfare and as the New Year begins, we all look ahead to see what lies before us. With our resolutions set in mind, we follow in the footsteps of others to accomplish what the goals we have made for ourselves. We forget just how many leaders we have in our lives and just how they support us in every possible way. Whether they be lighting the way or cheering us on, we never take time to think about the impact they have on us.

There are multiple means of describing a "leader." In my own definition, a good leader is one who makes the path of others easier, even if the path they must take is dangerous and in unmarked territory. They are equal parts showman, servant, and bonding agent. They are a showman, for they must display to the world all that they have to offer and raise in the hearts of others the desire to accomplish any given task. Servant because they are duty bound to those they lead. And lastly, a bonding agent, for they must be able to join together people and point them towards a common goal. Above all of these, however, they are a teacher for they certainly teach others how to become the best possible version of themselves that they can be; they strive to enhance the lives of others, no matter the cost. I have never seen myself as much as a leader, to be perfectly honest, but it is for these reasons I have always admired them.

As a writer, I have many literary heroes and the marks that they have made in history are seen throughout the world. There is one particular woman I wish to discuss, Jane Austen. She is inarguably one of the most famous female writers, not only in her time, but in ours as well. She was a leader and a phenomenal writer whose literary light shines centuries after her passing. In her works, she outlined the social class and the inner workings and effects it had on society, while at the same time developing plots and characters that would encompass the way and manner in which people should behave. Her leading female characters radiate an inner sense of strength and independence that were ahead of their time.

Austen was ahead of her time as well, and while not famous by name in her own life, she would grow to become not only a recognizable name, but one that is highly revered. A lot has change from 1811, when her first novel Sense and Sensibility, was published not under her name, but instead "by a lady." However, her works are universally read and admired in todayís modern, fast-paced world. The reason for this is Austen understood the ways and workings of the human heart and mind and this knowledge helped her to write such situations and circumstances that could be understood by all, even people who lived a centuries later.

What is more was that she revolutionized the possibilities of the novel. Since the 18th and 19th centuries looked down on novels as a lesser form of artistic medium than poetry, when Jane Austin wrote her novels, she developed a style, while at the same time discovering new and different ways of expressing her story. Her female heroines were not the damsels or ornaments that were common in writing of that era, but they were human beings who saw their flaws and, if possible, corrected them. The realistic, human hearts that Austen gave to her characters made them nearly corporal to her readers. Even W.H. Auden, a well-known poet of the 20th century noted Austenís art in one of his poems A Letter to Lord Byron, "Then she's a novelist. I don't know whether/You will agree, but novel writing is/ A higher art than poetry altogether."

It is obvious why I admire Miss Austen as a leader in literature. However, it is easy to look back, see the leadership in others, and not notice it when it is staring you right in the face. There is another leader in my life that I look up to and strive to emulate; another woman who I have always seen as a pillar of strength, beauty, and intellect. She is, of course, my sister.

Older than myself by four years (give or take a few months), she has been a constant throughout my entire life. That is not to say that we always got along, as a matter of fact the opposite is true. When we were younger, we loathed each other; I was the annoying younger sister and she was the equally annoying, domineering, older sister. However, we grew up. She can still tend to be officious, but I have come to realize in these past few years just what she is. She is more than just my sister, she is who I would want to be like when I grow up. To me, she is this confident, childish grown-up who is full of laughter and intellect and kindness. She has taught me to laugh at myself and every day she shows me what one can make in this world if they will it. After all, that has always been her way. She has always been this force of nature that has made it seem so effortless, as if the world had just been waiting for her to make a move.

She has been, for a while now, telling me to write an article about her and so here it is. I know itís not a full thousand words about her (sorry, Katie), but it was the best way I knew how to write about her. Not only as a leader that she has always been to me, but in the same breath of one of my literary heroes. Life is full of people and the great ones (and unfortunately there are a very few of them) are the ones that help lead others to their greatness. These leaders that I have written about in a shamelessly biased manner, are just two in a world and a history full of people like them.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


The process

Leanne Leary
MSM Class of 2017

The concept of leadership is universal in many ways. There are leaders in nearly every organization, every form of working government, every home, and team. The difference from one leader to the next, and what distinguishes leaders, lies in a multitude of facets. Was this person a natural leader? Do they lead with confidence? With selflessness? What is the desired leadership style? Are we in America hoping for a new leader who fulfills and upholds our values, or are we in the midst of a foreign countryís highly centralized government that seeks no tolerance? Surely, a "good" leader looks drastically different from situation to situation; however, no matter the situation, Iíve come to a few conclusions about leadership, especially how I have seen it recently.

For the past three and a half years I have been immersed in a leadership program with the single goal of developing competent, driven, and prepared Army leaders, Army ROTC. I have certainly met leaders who I admire and only want to emulate, and I have met leaders who have taught me those "what not to do" lessons. I have realized that to each person, ideal leadership looks a little different, but I believe I have found a commonality: the process of leader development and its importance.

This summer at camp, or Cadet Leaders Course (CLC), this idea hit me hard. That sounds dramatic, but thatís exactly what happened. During CLC, we all participated in a multi-week and multi-faceted field problem, or leadership development exercise. Every day, our leadership position changed. We could be a team member one day and Platoon Leader the next day, the only thing we knew for certain was that every night at 2100 we would get a new assignment for the next day. So, on the fifth night my name was called to come to the middle of the patrol base as everybody was getting ready to settle in for the night, and told me I was going to be Platoon Leader for the next 24 hours, gave me our situation, and let me go get started.

During camp, each personís leadership ability and potential is constantly evaluated, so a position like this is really make or break. I turned around, called for my friend Nick and walked to the center of the patrol base to begin. This is when it all began to hit me. Again, dramatic? Maybe, but check it out. The next 20 hours turned out to be an accumulation, and a test, of the previous three years. Every step I took, decision I made, order I gave, everything. Everything brought me back. I realized that I had been told for the last three years that I was doing the things I was doing for a reason. I was laying on the wet ground for two hours for a reason. I was waking up every hour on the hour for a reason. I was learning about hydration, learning simple and repetitive battle drills, spending endless hours on map reading all for a reason.

The first thing I did as I headed to begin the next 24 hours was call for another person to come to the center. I did this without thinking twice about it, but I named him my Radio Telephone Operator (RTO). Basically, he couldnít leave my side for the next 24 hours, he became my means of communication. This created a dependability that I hadnít before realized, meaning that in my first 90 seconds as a leader, I was already depending on another person for one of the single most important parts of any operation, communication. I realized immediately I would fail if I didnít depend on the people around me.

Next, as the rest of the Platoon slept in shifts for the next seven hours, we sat in the middle and planned. I planned the next day down to the minute Ė wake up, move to and establish a new patrol base, water and food resupply, a reconnaissance mission, a deliberate attack, and all other operations. When it was time to wake everyone in the morning, it was go time. The first half of my 24 hour leadership experience was complete. Now, it was time to put it all into play. That day, plans changed, we adapted almost every mission, and ended up combining two into one, but as the day moved forward and everybody was working like a different limb of the same body, it all hit me. Everything that we had trained for the last three years made this day possible.

Every long brief about a seemingly irrelevant mission that we sat through as freshmen, made it possible for us to communicate clearly and deliberately on this day. Every time I had accidentally drifted off laying in security as a sophomore led me to arrange our patrol base differently that day. Every time I plotted a point on a map to go find a point marked with a stake made it possible for us to maneuver to and from our objective on that day with only a map and a compass.

This sounds like some sort of divine and happy revelation, right? No. This was so utterly frustrating. Here is why: Iíve complained about this process so much, we all have. I have wondered in anger why am I laying on a frozen ground with no gloves for two hours. Well, it was so that when I became a leader I wouldnít forget to put gloves on the packing list. So it all makes sense now. What does this mean?

After years in this leadership development program and CLC, I learned that becoming a leader is a process. There are natural born leaders and there are learned leaders, but even the person with that natural inclination to lead, goes through a learning process. In order to be a good leader, you must first and always be a good follower. It is a progression. It takes practice. It takes commitment. It takes the willingness to first not be a leader.

Iím not sure if that goes against a leadership philosophy floating around out there in the world, Iím sure it does, but Iím telling you, it is so necessary. All leaders who earn the respect that they demand, know what it is like to follow. They empathize with their subordinates because they have been there. They have learned from mistakes, they contribute to a team, they know their role as leader, and they know when they arenít the best fit for leader, and take their role as follower. All of this comes from the learning process of becoming a leader. So that was my great takeaway, commit to the process and be a follower. However counterintuitive that may seem, the best leaders Iíve met have clearly followed and taught this idea, I just didnít trust it until I saw it work in the middle of the woods. So, learn to be a leader by following, first. Interesting, right?

Read other articles by Leanne Leary

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