What is leadership? What can I relate it to? As a citizen of the United States, does leadership mean something else in other nations? Does leadership equate similarly across the board? Does the world truly have leadership and leaders? I have been struggling with these questions for what feels like an eternity, but more realistically, it has only been a few months. However, sometimes months feel like years. I do not know if I have a true understanding of leadership. In school I was given a definition that enabled me to identify what the concept of leadership is. Of course, following a definition can sometimes be following examples, and in today’s time those could be Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Evan Spiegel, John McCain and a bunch of other people I am clearly forgetting. Is there more?
Once, when I was in class during my junior year of university, a student uttered something in what some would say was a resentful tone: “History is written by the winners.” I could not stop thinking about that after class had concluded. It was not the first time I had even heard that notion. I looked around, hoping maybe other students were thinking about what was previously said, but it was hard to tell, to truly see if someone understands or even feels a remote sense of urgency. There was no urgency, because in that moment it was just a history lesson. It was just class.
Brothers have fought against brothers and sisters have fought against sisters throughout history. How are we as citizens and people meant to understand what leadership is if we ourselves continue to evolve or maybe fail to? Is leadership concentrated on profit maximization or is that concentration only in certain countries, or none at all? If I asked someone in Vancouver and Hong Kong the definition of leadership, would their answers vary or remain consistent? Is leadership based upon the person that yells the loudest?
What dances around my mind the most is if leadership and net worth are equal to one another? Is that how the United States and the world view leaders? Are there leaders that are just an average Jane or Joe? Where are they in my textbooks? Does being a leader mean your net worth has to be in the millions or billions? Do you have to be an executive? Do you have to be in positions of power to be a leader? And if so, why? Who decided that?
Maybe those in power decided that.
More recently, I have determined but of course may be subject to change, that there are not any leaders in this world. There are just people who call themselves leaders and those who aim to embody leadership qualities, though both are very different. I could say I am the best at cooking, or I could say I am working hard to improve my cooking abilities. Maybe even specifying the steps necessary to accomplish this goal.
Sometimes when I think of the word leadership, I equate it to not being able to mess up, to make a mistake or to hit a rock wall. Is it realistic to say we view leaders in the same fashion that we view our idols or role models or celebrities, or are those words interchangeable? As humans, we are not perfect, although we may often strive for perfection, so when mistakes occur, it may seem like the end of the world. Maybe leadership is not about striving for perfection or saying, “I am the best.” Maybe leadership is about having the opportunity to learn from those around you and from yourself, the mistakes you made and those yet to come, the victories you achieved and those waiting for you beyond the horizon, the patience you may learn to have, the way you affect others, or the way you work with others. Maybe it is even the willingness to admit you are wrong and I do not think I have ever seen such altruistic acts. Yet.
Maybe leadership is first recognizing the role that you are in is greater than yourself. Maybe leadership is having an opposition party member in your cabinet to aim to effectively achieve or strive to achieve bipartisan goals. Maybe effective leadership is placing emphasis on what is right from wrong, which is easy to say but most difficult to do.
Maybe being called a leader is just a reminder of what needs to be done or who we need to become, externally and around us, but also internally and within us. What are our true perceptions of what leadership is? Is leadership what the textbook says, with varying definitions depending on the book? Is leadership and being a leader something that can be defined and decided upon based on our individual beliefs and notions? Maybe it is everything that is suggested above, or maybe it is not even described on this page.
Maybe it is up to us to determine.
Himali Vyas is a fourth-year student majoring in international business and management with a minor in human resource management. HV855235@wcupa.edu