Leadership is the most overrated character quality in our culture today. Not only do we overlook what makes a leader great, but from an early age we tell kids that leadership is this incredibly important character quality they need to chase after. This can be seen in the sheer volume of “leadership training” present from the time we are in elementary school all the way to the overabundance of programs at Gordon. When the same people are put into these programs again and again it creates inflated egos and a lack of self-awareness.
What do these inflated egos turn around and do with this “leadership”? Let me tell you a few stories. I recently heard of a mix of past and present Presidential Fellows, Student Gov Members, CEC leadership, Political science, business majors and more pitching — and I’m not kidding here — a SECRET SOCIETY of alums to quietly fund and steer Gordon when they all inevitably become rich and successful. Because obviously they’ll become wealthy and obviously they know what’s best for Gordon, right? I’ve heard of RA’s, a position pitched as requiring leadership, blackmailing residents when they discover their sexuality isn’t in line with Gordon’s life and conduct statement. I’ve heard of RA’s who got onto a resident’s laptop without permission to bust them for drug possession, only to ask that same resident the following year if they were selling weed. I could go on with more examples, but I think my point is clear.
I’ve just gotten sick of the entitlement that is a direct result of praising someone as a leader just because they’re the most assertive and persuasive. The oft-told story of Cincinnatus is perfect; it speaks of a leader who steps up when others ask him to and steps down immediately after he accomplished what was necessary and returned to the simple life of farming. Yet today we encourage the opposite and end up with “leaders” who think they know & deserve better than everyone else.
So let’s try encouraging good community members for a change. While we can tell kids that there is value in being charismatic and all that, we should also tell them their friends are their teammates, not people to be manipulated. Tell them that their contributions are separate from their value and that being the biggest talker and quickest on your feet in a debate don’t automatically mean you’re smarter. It’s optimistic of me, I know. These kinds of people are always going to interview better and be seen as smarter with older generations. But there’s a lot of empathy-driven social ideas being heard these days, so maybe it’s not too late to throw this one in too.
Editor’s Note: This was transformed by the author from a comment on The Gordon Grapevine into a full opinions piece.