Leadership Positions

Leadership positions are thought to be very critical for admissions to top universities (assuming your grades are near top-tier also).  What really matters is what you do in those positions and the demonstration of your leadership skills, not which elected positions or how many you got.  In fact, having too many extracurricular activities or leadership positions raises doubts about your commitment and involvement.  You can be the presidents of ten clubs and not do anything.  For the top universities that interview promising students, the interviewers will try to find out your actual responsibilities and achievements in those positions.  It’s better to focus on a few and really put in your time and effort, than do many for the purpose of filling up the application form.

But leadership is a lot more than just holding an elected office.  In fact, true leadership does not require having an elected office.  It’s really about using your ability to influence others to achieve a shared objective.  This means that motivating others and keeping them engaged is a major part of the effort.  In some cases, you have to help resolve internal and external conflicts and issues.  These all demonstrate your leadership skills.

Recently I wrote the following for a presentation I gave to a “leadership development” class.

There are many different definitions for “leadership.”  I personally prefer the definition of “using one’s influence and resources to achieve a public goal that’s greater than one’s own self-interest.”  This means that:

     – Leadership is a state of mind, a personal commitment, and concrete actions to fulfill that commitment.  Providing leadership does not require a leadership position.  One can have influence and resources without having formal titles of leadership.

     – One’s influence comes from one’s credibility, proven ability, past track record, presentation of the logic, and persuasion.  This means that leadership is built on a solid foundation of one’s background.  Without it, one cannot effectively sustain his influence because he’ll be challenged at the first sign of trouble.

     – One’s resources comes from his own and his ability to access those of his institutions, connections, and other entities.  One does not have to be wealthy to have usable resources that can serve the greater goal.

     – The “public goal that’s greater than one’s own self-interest” may go against the self-interest of the person, and so this implies a passion and commitment to make economic sacrifices when needed.  There is no true leadership if there’s not the passion and commitment to a greater cause than one’s own.

So, everyone can provide leadership.  It’s a matter of choice, not position.

A suggested video to watch: Rich Warren on a Life of Purpose