Sunday, October 7, 2007

Letter from the Editor

Life and Times of JWN
Joe, Genny Invite
Leadership Is Service

In the upcoming week, I have the pleasure of delivering my first keynote speech at the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) District Conference. It will be in front of a slew of high schoolers, faculty, and administration at Windsor High School, my alma mater. In addition to my speech, I am also putting on a workshop on leadership. This latter obligation has had me thinking in the past few weeks about what it means to be a leader.

"So Joseph, what does it mean to be a leader?"

Throughout the last 7 years of my life I have attended a variety of "leadership events." These include everything from the New York State Council on Leadership and Student Activities (NYSCLSA) camp, three NYSCLSA conferences, 10 to 15 one day leadership events, and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society's National Leadership Conference in Austin, Texas last year. In addition, I'm currently participating in Leadership Livingston, the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce's ten month leadership development program.

I have heard about forty different definitions of what it means to be a leader from these events. Of all of these definitions, however, one has stayed with me because it meshes the most with my personal value system. It is...(drum roll please)...

Leadership is service.

With the organizations I have led throughout the years and the ones I currently lead, this is the mantra I try to follow. It is consistent with my personal belief that you need to add value first in what you do. If you consistently give of yourself, expecting nothing in return, then you will find fulfillment beyond your wildest beliefs.

We live in a society which is very "me" oriented. More often than not, you will hear people say, "Well, what do I get out of it?" or, "What's in it for me?" Thinking of leadership as service helps combat that ideal.

Your role as a leader is to serve the people and the purpose. It is not about you or the notoriety you get from being "President" or "Chairperson" of a committee or group, it is about the value you can add to the people you lead and the cause you're committed to.

A leader's role is often that of the visionary and motivator. He cannot fulfill the vision on his own, but rather he must inspire his team to carry it out and bring it to fruition. This brings to mind a few key terms in leadership:

Delegation - This is sometimes thrown to the wayside in fledgling organizations because of the "me" attitude discussed before. But, it is essential to making a lasting impact. Its power lies in a simple rule of thumb, people will be true to what they help create. Get people involved and they will be bought in for the duration.

Responsibility - A leader is responsible for the ultimate success or failure of the team or organization. They are not just responsible for the greater good the organization can achieve, but also to each individual that is part of the team. A leader must carry through on his promises and be true to all of the parties involved.

Accountability - If the team is led poorly, it is ultimately the leader who needs to take accountability. Anything that happens under his watch is on his back - success or failure.

Attitude - This is one of my favorite parts of leadership because if used well, it has the potential to make a tremendous impact. One of my personal values is to make a consistent positive influence and if leveraged in the right capacity - a leadership role - incredible change follows this type of attitude.

These are a few lessons on leadership that I have learned throughout the years as I've developed as a "leader."

When put in a capacity they are passionate about, leaders have a tremendous opportunity to facilitate great change if they keep in mind some of the ideas just presented.

Have a great week and don't hesitate to respond with some of your thoughts on what it means to be a leader. You can reach me personally at or 607.743.8569.

Lead well or be led well. There's no other way to rock it as we all have our part in the leadership puzzle.

Warmly yours, ~JWN