“If you think you are leading and turn around to see no one following, then you are just taking a walk.”
Benjamin Hooks, former director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was reported to have said those words. It points out an important fact that may be easily forgotten: No one can lead without having followers, and few gain followers without having influence.
It is that time of the year again when the topic of student leadership finds its way into many conversations. Students are encouraged to apply for leadership so they can serve others, learn responsibility and make changes on campus.
Although I love student leadership and wholly support what it stands for, I cannot help but wonder if there are other ways to influence change and lead on campus. Do those who do not fit into the categories provided of student leadership positions lose their opportunity to lead on campus? What about those who were rejected as student leaders?
In the end, it boils down to influence. Strong and effective leaders do not exist without influence. Influence — not title — is key.
Students may apply for leadership based on a number of reasons ranging anywhere from social pressure to a genuine desire to serve others. Some students measure their worth through student leadership positions; others hate the cliquish atmosphere that seems to come out of it. It is as if there is no way to remain neutral on the topic. The position, though, is just a position. Those who want to be student leaders can apply for the position, but in the end leadership is not a position or a title. It is a lifestyle built upon the foundation of influence.
Those who truly wish to see change will see change regardless of whether or not they have been hired on and given the title of student leader. Those who do not wish to see change will leave little behind as their legacy.