Leaders around us

Last week it just so happened that my Small Group Communications class was reading a chapter on “Leading Groups.” I had assigned them a short presentation on the leadership role models in their lives in which they should cite specific text concepts. There were “task leadership” concepts such as initiating and coordinating (drawing out multiple perspectives and ideas from members) or “process leadership” concepts such as encouraging and mediating. Some students addressed leadership style such as authoritarian, democratic and laissez faire. Two leadership styles were the most interesting; one was the transformational leader described by T. Whitford and S. A. Moss as striving “to change, elevate, and unify the goals of followers as well as inspire them to pursue challenging and shared objectives.” The second, tucked in quietly at the end of the chapter, was the servant leader who, according to Robert K. Greenleaf, “is servant first. . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. The conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” As a result of this assignment, I had occasion to listen to some 90 college students do their presentations. I heard 90 stories about mothers, fathers, teachers, pastors, coaches, employers and many others. What struck me quite profoundly was that leaders are all around us every day. For the most part, they work quietly, humbly, and diligently. They truly listen, practice acceptance and empathy, they nurture community and are other-oriented. These are the leaders who make our world livable. These are the leaders that lift us up. These are the leaders of future generations, true role models who, for the most part, will never be famous or rich. But that’s okay. They have higher aspirations. So look around you today. Thank someone who is a transformational or servant leader in your life. And remember, especially during this week of election, that there are leaders and then there are those to whom we give power.

Helen Prien

Lock Haven