On Leadership

Liam self discipline sign

Do you consider yourself to be a leader? All of us have the potential to be great leaders.  However, it takes time and hard work.  Your success is going to depend on how much you want it.  There is a difference between leadership and management.  There is a quote that helps to illustrate a key concept of leadership.  “You manage things, you lead people”– Admiral Grace Hopper.  There is a popular misconception.  Leadership is not just telling people what to do.  Leadership is learning to work with other people and taking personal responsibility no matter what happens.  There are many personal attributes that you must learn to cultivate such as a positive mental attitude, focus, and self-discipline.  A good leader does not force somebody to do things, but rather compels them to do what is necessary.  A good leader takes responsibility for the results that their followers produce, and they always look for ways to be better.

I never thought that I would end up being a leader one day, but when you take action and continue to challenge yourself, this is what will naturally happen.  When I first got to Farmingdale State College in Fall 2015 I was a freshman, and I had very few connections on campus.  It feels just like yesterday.  I wanted to get involved but I didn’t know how.  I figured that I would put my best foot forward, go to events, talk to people in my classes, and join organizations.

The first thing that I did to get involved was to attend the Fall Involvement Fair. I learned about the Rambassadors program and applied for the following semester.  I was convinced that it was a great opportunity for self-improvement.  Looking back, it certainly was.  Fast forward to the Spring 2016 semester, and I’ve already made a lot of friends, learned how to succeed academically, and adjust to college life.  When I first started Rambassadors, learning how to give tours took a lot of effort.  It seemed hard at the time but I kept showing up and trying my best, and sooner or later I became confident at doing what I do. Now I am the vice president and I train new Rambassadors and help to build community.

During my sophomore year I met a friend named TJ, who introduced me to a program called CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program), for under-represented students pursuing a STEM degree.  Once again, I was put into a situation where I did not know many people and had a lot of potential for growth.  After networking and making friends, over time I was offered many positions such as tutor, mentor, and peer advisor.  Now I am part of the advisory board to help plan events and improve the program.  Sometimes, all it takes is for one person to help show you the way.  CSTEP is amazing and I will always be grateful to TJ.

My junior year, I became a resident assistant and the following summer, an orientation leader. I have also worked as a certified nursing assistant throughout college.  School has been very hard but it’s all worth it. None of it has been easy but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because this is what makes me who I am.  I am all about building character.  I believe that we all have tremendous potential as human beings, but your results depend on how you carry yourself.

The interesting thing about leadership is that as you accept more responsibility, even though it seems like a lot, you learn how to adapt. You are capable of far more than you will ever know.  Every challenge that you face is a test to see how well you can work with what you have.  The reason that I included some of the things that I have done in college is because I literally started from nothing as a freshman, not knowing how, why, or when to fulfill leadership roles.  I am here to tell you today that I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams all the things that I have achieved or experienced in college.  It’s hard to grasp when you’re a first-semester freshman, not knowing how to approach the next four years of your life.  However, if you take things one step at a time, you stay positive, and you continue to set goals, you will be amazed at what you have done.

As an upperclassman, I believe that you have a responsibility to help underclassmen so that they can better succeed academically, socially, and personally. I had a lot of people guide me in a positive direction and I will always remember and appreciate them for that.  As I enter my final semesters of undergraduate schooling, I am more than happy to pass the torch to the new members of our Farmingdale State College community.  I have met so many different people and I’m always going to remember the good times.  College is what you make of it.

There are many different ways to choose how you want to live your life. However, I find that it is much more rewarding to live in harmony with others.  There is a time and place to focus on yourself, but on a daily basis it is good to be concerned for and look for ways to help others.  The true pleasure in life comes from giving.  You can have all the money in the world, material possessions, accolades, and status, but what is it worth if you have nobody to share it with?

College is a great time to develop your skillset and to try different things. Compared to high school, my self-awareness is much greater and will continue to grow for years to come.  As long as you have a plan and a purpose, you will do well.  You need to ask yourself, why are you here?  What do you want to accomplish in your time at Farmingdale?  We all need to set goals so that we can live a better life for ourselves and the ones that we love.

The secret to leadership is that you must first learn to lead yourself. It must come from within.  This is a mental game and we all must learn how to navigate the inevitable trials and tribulations of daily life.  If you want to be a leader, it should not be for the sake of gaining followers or advancing your personal agenda.  You will reap far greater results if you do it for the purpose of lifting up those around you.  We all give off a certain type energy.  This is called your aura.  It changes from day to day, but the point is that you can get a feel for people.  If you want to be a true leader, you must enter your role with pure intentions.

Another misconception about leadership is that there can only be one leader in a given situation. The reality is that you must always know when to lead, and when to follow.  There is a delicate balance.  Sometimes it’s better to speak, and sometimes it’s better to listen.

There is a lot that can be said on the topic of leadership, but the take-home message for today is that it starts with you. Continue to build the positive habits that will take you further in life.  The sacrifice today is worth it, for the reward tomorrow.  Truly remarkable feats almost always take years, if not decades, of hard work and determination.  Look at the bigger picture.  Read books, exercise, eat right, set goals, build strong networks, commit to learning something new each day, practice public speaking, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and be honest with yourself.  College can be hard and sometimes we face obstacles.  We all have a choice in life.  We only get so much time on this Earth, and tomorrow is never promised.  Life is short.  Never forget to always be self-reliant.  Only then can others depend on you.

If you walk away with nothing else today but this, ask yourself:

What is my purpose in life, how am I going to get there, and why?

To everyone who reads this, I am wishing you the best, and I believe that you can achieve spectacular things so long as you just apply yourself. It all starts from within.

Good luck.