In My Own Words
Thoughts on Education, Artistry, and Leadership

Remarks at the Highlander Leadership Awards
April 15, 2010 at 5:00 PM
The Stockdale Center at Monmouth College

Let’s once again congratulate all of our Highlander Leadership Award nominees and winners!  True to the spirit of this occasion, it’s fitting that everything you have enjoyed here tonight was organized by student leaders. Please join me in thanking Michelle Bruce, Cris Escobar, and Katie Argentine!

Now, this year saw more students nominated for Leader of the Year than ever before, as well as the first Coach to be nominated for Advisor of the Year, and the first student-created program executed successfully by a group other than a recognized student organization.  This is fantastic.

We’ve always known the Highlander Leadership Awards are the highest non-academic awards earned at Monmouth College, but this years nominees really show that leadership is a much broader concept than most people realize.

Does one have to be a president to be leader?  Turns out you don’t.  Do you have to be a member of a recognized student organization?  Apparently not.  Do you have to have the longest resume?  Most certainly not.

So, let us look at that list of nominees again.  Each demonstrates of leadership.  In fact, I think there are a lot of names missing from the list.  Leadership about organizing, marketing, or directing—and you’ve all certainly shown your proficiency in all all those things.

But is that everything to leadership?  Now that you’ve all been recognized as great leaders by your peers and professors, can you check “leadership” of that list of things to do in college?

To answer that, let’s ask a question, “Who would you follow?”

Well, now that is a different question!  It is impossible, after all, to be a solitary leader.  A general without an army may as well be a private.  A conductor without her orchestra is just flapping her arms nonsensically.  A preacher without his congregation is but a disciple.

Who would you follow?

It’s easy to find leaders when one is looking for people who stand at the front of a room and say “I’m a leader!”  Looking for leaders to lead is different from finding leaders to follow.  When you look at a leader through this different lens, something is different.

Who would you follow?  Who were the exemplars of good work?  Who did we want to be like?  Who do we trust? Who inspired us?  Who surprised us?

Being a leader is never about the number of leadership titles on the page.  More than anything, however, it is about the quality of the leadership being performed. Not simply whether it was good or bad, but how it felt.

Who would you follow?  How would you want to be lead by?

Leadership is about motivating, uniting, and inspiring.  In leadership, the doing of it is not as important as the how you do it.  That is what the Highlander Awards celebrate: The best examples of style, approach, and creativity in leadership.  Each of you has shown these traits in some measure.  Some of you excel in motivation, others in uniting.  But each of you is unique, each has something special to share.  Each has something worth following.

Tonight, we recognize leaders who we would most like other leaders to follow and learn from.  Not necessarily because they are better leaders, but because they have developed a leadership method worthy of attention.

As you look around the room tonight, as you look around our campus, through the end of this year, and on throughout life, look for other leaders to follow.  You can never be a perfect leader, but you can always be an improving leader, just by paying attention to your friends, your peers, your parents, and those who you respect.

As you lead, think about this: Who would follow you?  Who should you follow?

Daniel M. Reck, M.S.Ed., is Assistant Director of Greek Life, Leadership, and Involvement at Monmouth College. 

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