Lead­er­ship through the eyes of an eighth-grader

The Covington News - - OPINION -

My name is Ralph Ed­ward Brown. I’m cur­rently an eighth-grade stu­dent at the New­ton County Theme School. This sum­mer, I had the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend the Ju­nior National Young Lead­ers Con­fer­ence (JrNYLC) in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. I was one of 294 schol­ars from around the coun­try iden­ti­fied as a fu­ture leader. This was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence for me. Thanks go to my sev­enth-grade teacher, Ms. Holly Kaas, for nom­i­nat­ing me and serv­ing as my men­tor.

The JrNYLC is a unique six-day lead­er­ship pro­gram. Its goal is to in­tro­duce mid­dle-school stu­dents to the rich tra­di­tion of lead­er­ship through­out Amer­i­can his­tory, while help­ing them de­velop their own lead­er­ship skills. Dur­ing the con­fer­ence, I took part in spe­cially de­signed small-group ac­tiv­i­ties, pre­sen­ta­tions and site ex­plo­rations through­out the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area.

As we stud­ied lead­ers such as Abra­ham Lin­coln, Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, John Brown, Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we were given ma­jor as­sign­ments.

My first as­sign­ment was to come up with a per­sonal def­i­ni­tion of lead­er­ship. I de­fined lead­er­ship as hav­ing the abil­ity to see a vi­sion and be­ing in­spired to mo­ti­vate oth­ers to join you in tak­ing own­er­ship of that vi­sion.

In to­day’s world, the path to good lead­er­ship seems to grow harder and harder to fol­low. Crime, hate, bit­ter­ness and doubt (among our lead­ers) join a host of other fac­tors that are caus­ing young chil­dren and young adults of to­day to give up on their dream to be­come lead­ers.

There is good lead­er­ship and bad lead­er­ship. In or­der to be­come not just a leader but a good leader, I think a per­son must pos­sess and demon­strate the fol­low­ing unique lead­er­ship qual­i­ties:

A good leader must know how to lead. When a leader al­lows things not good for the peo­ple he leads to hap­pen in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, then that per­son has failed at be­ing a good leader.

A good leader demon­strates be­hav­ior that fits the or­ga­ni­za­tion he or she leads.

A good

leader must make it known that he/she is in charge and has full au­thor­ity over what is go­ing on. If the leader does not take charge then that leader should know that he/she will be con­sid­ered un­pro­duc­tive.

An­other qual­ity of good lead­ers is how they an­swer ques­tions and how they present them­selves un­der stress. A per­son’s rep­u­ta­tion can be ru­ined with even the slight­est slip up of a word. That is why lead­ers in high au­thor­ity should watch what they say and to whom they say it. If the leader is asked a ques­tion he/she feels un­com­fort­able about an­swer­ing, he/she should stay calm be­cause some­one is al­ways watch­ing and lis­ten­ing.

A good leader must know how to fol­low even when lead­ing. This means that even though he/she is in con­trol of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, he/she can still em­pathize with the peo­ple he or she is lead­ing. When a leader pos­sesses this qual­ity, he/she knows what’s im­por­tant to the peo­ple he/she is lead­ing. The con­nec­tion with the mem­bers of his/her group is very strong com­pared to groups who have lead­ers with­out this qual­ity. When the leader knows how the peo­ple feel and what they want, you have qual­ity.

A good leader must al­ways know what’s go­ing on in his/her or­ga­ni­za­tion. An or­ga­ni­za­tion shows no sign of lead­er­ship when it is full of mis­chief and trou­ble. A knowl­edge­able leader is re­spected.

A leader needs to know his/her role in any sit­u­a­tion. In other words, I think a good leader must have in­tegrity, be re­spon­si­ble, in­flu­en­tial, knowl­edge­able and am­bi­tious, and be a risk-taker. A good leader lis­tens and is ac­count­able for his/her ac­tions.

Ev­ery­one wants to be a good leader, but many fail to reach his/her po­ten­tial. Bad lead­ers fail to pos­sess the qual­i­ties I men­tioned, caus­ing their group/or­ga­ni­za­tion to end up ru­ined. Good lead­ers fol­low all the qual­i­ties I’ve men­tioned above and go above and be­yond to en­sure sta­bil­ity in their or­ga­ni­za­tions. With good lead­er­ship, the group/or­ga­ni­za­tion will pros­per and grow. Busi­ness as­sign­ment

Our sec­ond as­sign­ment re­quired me and my team to de­velop a mis­sion state­ment for a com­pany we would es­tab­lish. There were 15 other schol­ars in my di­verse group of Dutch, Asian, His­panic and African de­scent. As lead­ers, we were given two choices for our com­pany: re­cy­cling or nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. There was a lot of dis­cus­sion about the im­pact nat­u­ral dis­as­ters have on peo­ple, their fam­i­lies, their homes, and their com­mu­ni­ties. We agreed that since nat­u­ral dis­as­ters af­fect ev­ery­body and ev­ery lan­guage has a word for HELP, our com­pany would be a re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Our com­pany would be known for help­ing all peo­ple in need get back on their feet fol­low­ing a nat­u­ral disas­ter. Our com­pany would help be­cause this would be the right thing to do. Be­cause of our good lead­er­ship, peo­ple in need would trust and be­lieve in us, know­ing that we are driven by our mis­sion state­ment: ”Stronger than the storm we come to per­form.” Lessons from Lin­coln

For our third as­sign­ment, we had to iden­tify a per­son, past or present, who we thought was a good leader.

I chose Abra­ham Lin­coln. Pres­i­dent Lin­coln is a per­son who has made a last­ing im­pres­sion on me be­cause of his lead­er­ship. Driven by his com­pas­sion for the peo­ple, Pres­i­dent Lin­coln ac­cepted the re­spon­si­bil­ity to make a dif­fer­ence in Amer­ica so that ev­ery cit­i­zen would be guar­an­teed their equal rights.

A good leader must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for ev­ery pos­i­tive thing and ev­ery neg­a­tive thing that hap­pens un­der his/her lead­er­ship. The leader must be ac­count­able for ev­ery de­ci­sion made, whether made alone or with guid­ance from oth­ers. Pres­i­dent Lin­coln took re­spon­si­bil­ity for ev­ery de­ci­sion he made, from sign­ing the Eman- cipa­tion Procla­ma­tion to sign­ing the Thir­teenth Amend­ment, the Home­stead Act and the National Bank­ing Acts.

When he is­sued the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion, Pres­i­dent Lin­coln was tak­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity for a doc­u­ment meant to free slaves. He chose to be­come a risk-taker, ig­nor­ing the screams of those who saw its en­act­ment as a threat to the econ­omy.

Good lead­ers must be knowl­edge­able and have in­tegrity. Th­ese char­ac­ter­is­tics en­able a per­son to take tough crit­i­cism and do the work that needs to be done. Knowl­edge­able lead­ers who have in­tegrity earn the re­spect of the peo­ple they are lead­ing. Pres­i­dent Lin­coln was knowl­edge­able about ev­ery­thing he did.

He was able to see the hor­ror of the Civil War, and lis­ten to the peo­ple while hold­ing to his con­vic­tion to end slav­ery. His strong in­tegrity and in­flu­ence helped him con­vince oth­ers to join his side. Pres­i­dent Lin­coln’s Get­tys­burg Ad­dress as­sured us, as Amer­i­cans that a brighter day was ahead.

Good lead­ers must not only be self-mo­ti­vated, but they must mo­ti­vate oth­ers as well. If a leader is not mo­ti­vated, the vi­sion will have no back­bone and, there­fore, can­not thrive and grow. Pres­i­dent Lin­coln’s vi­sion to see the North and the South united as one was ful­filled and has made a last­ing im­pres­sion on Amer­ica to this day.

Bad lead­ers usu­ally lack am­bi­tion and are un­able to make good de­ci­sions. Pres­i­dent Lin­coln is one of those good lead­ers whose in­flu­ence is an in­spi­ra­tion to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. His mo­ti­va­tion, drive and rigor will con­tinue to guide oth­ers for years to come. To­day, it is easy to dis­tin­guish the dif­fer­ence be­tween good lead­ers and bad lead­ers. The re­sults speak for them­selves.

I am in­spired by what Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln once said, “Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

My fi­nal as­sign­ment was to share my ex­pe­ri­ence with my lo­cal com­mu­nity. Thanks to The Cov­ing­ton News for giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity to share my thoughts and my ad­ven­ture.

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