Column: Leadership about betterment, not perfection

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A misconception I had about leadership studies before I entered the program was that it would provide guidelines on how to control people.

What I found after completing the minor was something else entirely.

I think I was confusing it with management, where authority is formally bestowed, and actions can be guided by different theories to increase motivation and productivity.

Leadership, however, is not so impersonal and scientific. Neither is it based on hierarchy or status – a person can lead from any position in life.

For the first time in my schooling, the “subject” is not about what experts have historically thought but about what we think. Scenarios and ideas are presented in the classroom, and the teacher asks students what they think, instead of telling them what to think. This reflective nature of the program provides an environment for critical thinking – something that is indispensable, in leadership and in life.

I see leadership as an initial process of inward influence. Our beliefs and worldview are constantly being prodded and tested by a variety of sources, including people. After these beliefs are thoroughly analyzed, then solidified, external influence is a byproduct of the open communication and implementation of our drives, motivations, passions, and beliefs. So, a leader cannot lead anyone else until he can first sort out himself.

My personal leadership philosophy is simple in its ideal and is based on a single principle: live with a commitment to betterment. An underlying assumption of this maxim is that change is necessary, inevitable and invited. After all, how could an organization or person become better if they are static?

A distinction that I would like to make is that I have a commitment to “betterment,” and not “perfection.” Striving for perfection leaves no room for learning from mistakes and for the forgiveness of self and others for setbacks and imperfections. Also, the goal of perfection seems so unattainable that it would be a culprit for inaction.

Betterment allows for attainable goals and measurable progress. An analogy I draw is walking up the stairs of a tall building. Progress can be slowly, yet surely seen. Similarly, one should not be frustrated by not being able to jump from the ground to the top of the building – that is unrealistic. Leadership is mostly exercise, not competitive performance.

I have found through my commitment to betterment, one basic universal human principle: we all want to be happy. Recognizing this fact, and acknowledging that no two peoples’ path to happiness is the same, a tolerant attitude for others actions arises. Compassion is a value that I am beginning to appreciate.

This column is far from perfect, but it has been made better through critical thought and revision. That is the only reasonable goal. Otherwise, with perfection in mind, I would always be beating myself up for not having produced a perfect past, which would distract me from future goals of betterment.

Concluding metaphorically (which is the only way words can conclude), this column is a photograph of the leadership environment; time will change that environment, as will the perspective change for the photographer as he moves through it.

Cody Holub is a senior in electronic media and is peacin’ out. Please send your comments to opinion@spub.ksu.

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