What Does Leadership Mean to Me?

“Leadership” seems to be a hyper word that many elites and aspirers love talking about. However, for a long time it had caused great discomfort to me. Being a timid and introverted person, I often found it challenging to lead a group of people and detested so much those people who never stopped aspiring to become leaders but did much less than they talked. It was after I went to college that I realized the necessity of taking initiative and redefining leadership according to the influence of those whom I’ve interacted with and learned from in class.

Going to Vassar College is a very special experience to learn about leadership. Everyone is very active in raising his or her own voice, but hardly anyone has a competitive mindset or thinks it’s imperative to become a leader. The college is a supportive network in which people support you to grow up and expect you to be stronger. At the same time, many people are not afraid of taking on responsibilities. Whenever others need them, they will feel free to stand out and say “yes.”

In this kind of atmosphere, I realize that

–    You don’t need to negate or surpass others to become a leader.

–    You don’t need to have overactive personality to demonstrate your leadership.

Then what do you need as a leader?

To me, leadership above all means social consciousness. It is the ability to place your group and yourself in a larger picture of social context and discern the organizational problems you need to address. It is the realization of problems that motivates you to change your group or community. Thus, you take initiative not out of personal interests but out of the need to affect change to your community.

Leadership means mobilizing the whole group. As a leader, you have the responsibility to hear the voice of every member, because running an organization requires collective efforts, rather than personal decisions. To exert your power and rights as a leader is to represent the imagination of the whole group. Certainly, to mobilize a group requires your high capability and organization skills, but these abilities can only work out when the objective coincides with the imagination of whole group.

Leadership means mutual support and nurturing. It is notable that what sews a coherent organization is the underlying solidarity, which creates a space of comfort and ease for all members. As a leader, you are concerned of not only the project you are leading, but also your comrades in the group. To provide nurturing may require you to give away your opportunities to others but this practice supports your members, who will in turn shape the organization profoundly.

When I think of qualified leaders I have really been impressed with, Cindy, our previous president of Vassar Haiti Project, always stands out to me. She is not an extroverted talkative person who can promise you many great things, yet she is caring and capable. Her actions created such an open space for us that she’s won respect from each of us. Whenever I think of her, I am assured of the right way to follow.

Shiqi Lin

Shiqi Lin

You can contact Shiqi Lin at linshiqi2017@gmail.com.