Friday, May 9, 2008

Power and Responsibility

In a moment of weirdness, I have been elected as vice president of the university nutrition club, despite certain factors against me winning. But now that the easy part is done (ha), I have to plan for the next school year. At Oberlin I have been in various organizations and given responsibilities for which I was not entirely qualified. But I carried out my responsibilities as best as I could, given my greenness and the steep learning curve I always faced. I hope to not repeat mistakes from those ventures here because I see a lot of untapped potential in the club. To prepare, I'm starting to gather books on leadership from a business and nonprofit standpoint and to evaluate at the club as an outsider, an easy task to perform.

I have never been fully comfortable with most leadership positions, especially when it involves money. My parents' admonitions (what they consider as advice) about future careers--don't enter the restaurant industry, essentially--have always kept me away from devoting more than an iota of thought-space to different aspects of business such as management and leadership or even professional social skills. The fact that the business deals involving family was always tinged with nepotism and inconsistent accounting also played a role in my avoidance of all things related to business. Biographies of famous leaders sounded interesting (they can make for fascinating stories in and of themselves) but I was biased against them, mainly because I thought there wasn't much to gain from them.

Now I must look to these long-neglected areas for inspiration, models of behavior, and the necessary self-questioning. What is a leader? Who do I consider a leader? What qualities does that person possess to characterize them as a leader? (Why are all the books that deal with leadership specifically found only in business section of the bookstore? Are poets, writers, artists, philanthropists, scientists, historians, soldiers, et. al. not leaders as well? You'd think certain biographies [another problematic area of major chain bookstores] would be grouped with books on leadership...) For now, the path to these answers seems to lie with self-knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses, knowing how to complement or negate them, and an awareness of others and of what they can and can't (or won't) do.

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Liz said...

Congratulations. I think you'll do just fine, despite your reservations. You're a very together sort of person and I find that that is one of the most important traits for a leader to have. Most of the other skills that might be needed can be acquired along the way.

Good luck!

Steven said...

Thanks Liz.