The Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit is so much more than just watching the next President of the United States take her/his solemn oath. Students have an opportunity to build their leaderships skills, one of the most important soft skills for career success, social change, and community activation.
Attendees develop their leadership skills by engaging in leadership exercises as they listen to some of the world’s brightest leaders and influencers. Most attendees usually have a sense of leadership before they arrive at the Summit. They are experienced with the Summit format, having attended a prior Envision program and have engaged in leadership exercises at school, in their community, and through their prior Envision experience.
Envision interviewed several Envision Alumni Ambassadors on leadership to get their perspective on this critical skillset. Their insights on leadership characteristics were amazing, ranging from strength and empowerment to compassion and service. Here are some of their thoughts.
What Makes a Leader?
Leaders have a unique quality to them. What does it take to convince peers, younger people, older people, businesses, communities, and even countries to act in a cohesive movement? How do you get someone to believe in the greater good?
Certainly, a leader needs to have the strength to persevere the process and see their vision through. “You need a strong figure, someone who is very strong and powerful,” said Jamesha Caldwell, NYLF Medicine ‘15 alumna.
But power is not just for the leader. A great leader makes those around her or him even more powerful. “Leadership and empowerment are two closely tied terms,” said Joe Sullivan, NYLF Medicine ‘12 alumnus. “Leaders can bring power to people, they bring out the strengths of the group to balance their weaknesses, and they bring people together behind a common goal.”
Perhaps by empowering others, the leader recognizes the inherent risk the community takes by following their guidance. “Who is taking the risk—is it the leadership or the team?” asked Will Ellsworth, JrNYLC ’13 and JrNYLC Alumni ‘14 alumnus. “If the team is willing to struggle, then the leader is successful. They motivate and inspire to extend beyond the struggle to reach for that success. There will be challenges but at the same time, people are willing to take a risk, to forge through the challenge.”
Inspiring other people to take a leap of faith and follow a leader’s convictions is not easy. It takes character, strength, and likeability, which in turn sparks other people’s sense of imagination and belief.
“A leader is someone who inspires people and always does the right thing,” said Amelia Fox, NYLF Pathways to STEM ’15 alumna. “They are someone who always tries hard. They are the best, they succeed and always try hard, and keep trying when they fail. I think it’s someone who is willing to try new things until they succeed. That’s what a leader does.”
“It’s probably a servant leader,” Matt Ayers, JrNYLC ‘12, JrNYLC Alumni ‘13, and NYLSC ‘14 alumnus. “They lead by example and put others first. Honesty, humility, and respect are the big three character traits. JFK, FDR, Lincoln, Washington—they all exhibited those traits.”
“They also speak to the solutions, they don’t just point our problems,” added Matt Ayers. “Look at Bernie Sanders and how he appeals to the sense of helplessness; he gives people a sense of hope for an answer. That’s a really good way to run a presidential campaign. He is doing something right. Even if I don’t agree with him, he is exhibiting leadership.”
Leaders Aren’t Hard to Find
While we often think of global and national leaders, there are usually everyday heroes in our lives, people who are quietly affecting change and making an impact for the greater good. All of our Envision Alumni Ambassadors were quick to point out leaders in their lives, usually parents, teachers, and other members of their communities.
Here are some of their personal leaders:
Ethan Fuller, NYLF National Security ‘15 alumnus: “My grandma has been impressive with all the stuff she has done throughout her career. She’s lead all of her students in the right direction. My dad has also shown a lot of leadership. He started a photography business 30 years ago and he’s been in business a lot longer than most. It’s outstanding.”
Leah Hennick, Intensive Law & Trial ’15 alumna: “Mr. Dargenio, my history teacher, is one of the most compassionate and hard working persons I know. He is a leader. If I had to define leadership, I think of his diligence. He’s a role model for everyone in the school, and really cares what his students do outside of the classroom. He encourages you and is there for you.”
Will Ellsworth: “My teachers are definitely leaders. I work closely with them. My Haunt for October cause is where I see leaders, too. People fighting for change. If someone who is willing to take risk, I see them as a leader.”
Jamesha Caldwell: “My mother, my global politics teacher, and my biology teacher are all leaders. The children at the youth refugee center that I work at are leaders. The children there, they are inspiring, and that makes a leader.”
Matt Ayers: “Probably, Sarah Fitzpatrick, a teacher from my sophomore literature and leadership class. She is always a good person who is willing to help, and she always is willing to listen. She flips the norm and gets people to work together.”
Amelia Fox: “My mom is a leader because she leads us and helps us everyday when we have challenges. She inspires me.”
Joe Sullivan: “Throughout high school, some of my teachers were leaders. Specifically, the teachers who really cared about their students. They would give a lecture, but they would stay after and answers questions and clarify any issues that students had.
“Since then, other students in college have had great leadership, with great passion for their causes. They get other people to believe in their causes, and work together as a team. That’s inspiring.”
Our Envision Alumni Ambassador leadership blog series will continue next week with a look at the Ambassadors’ views of favorable national and global leaders, and their personal hopes of becoming leaders.
If you have attended an Envision program and are interested in expanding upon your leadership skills, don’t forget to check out our Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit this January, 2017.