Leadership: How to accept High School’s Call of Duty

If you are a high school student (anywhere) and have participated in (any) sport or activity, it’s very likely that you have been asked (multiple times) to be a leader. Whether it was president, captain, treasurer, or secretary, taking on a role of leadership is nothing short of daunting. Though we may have tried to avoid it, by senior year the responsibility ultimately falls upon us to take the lead. (Lucky us). And so we ask ourselves:

Can I take up the reins? Can I fill those big shoes? Can I accept the challenge?

No matter what your answers are, you have nothing to fear. As seen by our flawless political systems, we have been conditioned to believe that being a leader is about standing behind a podium (with a teleprompter in the background), making scandalous remarks to the press (about the last session of Congress and the last episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, respectively), and promising for a better tomorrow (while accomplishing absolutely nothing today). Though it may make the whole “leadership deal” appear a lot easier, it hardly seems legitimate. Does this really sound like what a true leader does?

Being a leader is not about the next election, the infamy, or even the memorials. Instead of fixating on their personal gain, a true leader is focused on the collective gain. The answer to the questions above are not about stepping up and stepping over – but rather stepping aside. Lao Tzu, founding Chinese philosopher of Taoism and author of the Tao Te Ching, eloquently summed it up with the following:   

True leaders

are hardly known to their followers.

Next after them are the leaders

the people know and admire;

after them, those they fear;

after them, those they despise.


When the work’s done right,

with no fuss or boasting,

ordinary people say,

“Oh, we did it.”


Though Lao Tzu said these words in 500 BC, they still ring just as true in 2013 AD. Though a leader may have massive amounts of power, a true leader disregards their own ego and its conquest for more power. To be empowering, not powerful, is what drives a group to harmony, unity, and ultimately, success. By simply serving as a voice of inspiration, rather than authority, ideas from all ranks of the group can flourish. Letting the group speak for itself leads its members to recognize just how creative they are. Sensing their own abilities, the group fosters trust in each other’s potential. As the group recognizes their own awe, the final step of the leader is to let it all happen seamlessly without any indication of intervention.  With this dynamic change, the followers and the leader become one; a singular body with a sole vision to be the best that they can be. With a single greatest vision of the grandest version, the group will thrive.

In my years of high school, I have had the honor of being Speech Captain and Student Director. In both of those years, our team was Regional Champions for Individual Events and State Finalists for Group Interpretation. Though yes, I was a leader for both of these highly respected and esteemed events, I cannot take responsibility for their successes. I only reminded them of their greatness. And with that reminder, they choose to be beyond great. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I love you Titans.

(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)

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  • mewabe

    In my opinion, a true leader is the foundation, not the top of a social structure…a true leader does not lead but supports and inspires people to lead themselves and find their own way, not to follow his or her vision.

    The aim of any teacher or leader, or of anyone who temporarily helps another person such as a therapist, is to make herself or himself obsolete as soon as possible, not to elevate him/herself to the status of permanent chief, messiah or guru.

    A true leader is behind and below the people, not above them, and not in front of them. He or she gives advice only when asked…because he or she knows that only then will it be well received.

    Among Native Americans, a leader was expected to place the welfare of the people before that of his or her own family, and of course before her or his own. If s/he could not do this, s/he was considered unqualified. The love for the people was paramount, and had to come before the love for one’s family. Children were observed from a young age to see if they had the qualities of leadership (generosity, courage, respect/humility, wisdom), qualities which would have to be well developed by the time a person reached adulthood.

    All of this is a far cry from what passes for leadership today, particularly in the political sphere, where all one has to do is ruthlessly and cunningly claw his or her way to the top…be the “top dog”, with about as many human qualities as a rabid dominant canine unnaturally endowed with an extraordinary talent for deception.

  • manifest1907@yahoo.com

    YES! Selflessness is what our leaders need!