Leadership Essay #4: Leadership Development

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From freshman year to now, a lot has changed. As someone who
believes leadership qualities are innate, I’m inclined to believe that I’ve
been presented with opportunities over the past three years that have enabled
me to reach within and put them on display. Additionally, through the
Presidential Leadership Academy and other venues, aspects of my extant
personality that I hadn’t positively or negatively associated with leadership
were explained. I became more conscious of the potential of these traits in helping
me achieve my leadership goals.

 

For example, public speaking is a trait that can be helpful
in a good leader. Being able to articulate your goals and the goals of your
organization to subordinates and outsiders is tremendously helpful in achieving
progress toward your goals. Coming to Penn State, I had given speeches on
occasion, from oratorical contests in middle and high school to pre-game pep
talks during soccer season. Over the past few years at Penn State however, it
feels like I’ve gotten up in front of groups of varying sizes to speak on an
almost daily basis. At this point, I’m fairly at ease in doing so, from
roundtable discussions to speeches at a lectern. This semester, I’ve taken CAS
214W: Speechwriting, and it has been very beneficial in helping me get my point
across concisely, and with good rhetorical and vocal variety.

 

Over the past three years, I’ve been put in a lot of
leadership situations, as we all have. After all, this is the Presidential
Leadership Academy. I feel that I have handled myself in an admirable manner
throughout, but in recent years, I have been able to learn from some earlier
missteps. One major instance where I was proud of my leadership development
occurred when I helped found the Penn State Journal of International Affairs,
set to publish our first issue this month. Founding Onward State was a process
that taught me so much about working with other people, both on equal terms and
in a hierarchical role. I made some mistakes then. We all did. There’s that
Thomas Edison quote about failure that everyone likes to talk about. It’s true.
You mess up. You move on. You learn. I think I kind of viewed the Journal as
Onward State 2.0, not in the sense of being a better version of an independent,
student-run news media organization, but in being a reflection of the
leadership qualities I found to work best in it. The Journal provided a fresh
start. From the way we solicited associate editors and submissions to the way we
communicate with each other when we’re not physically meeting, lessons learned
from Onward State informed how we handled situations. It didn’t hurt that three
of the four founders of the Journal were also OSers.

 

I don’t really have a proclivity for media organizations. I
know it may look like that’s my thing. Two media organizations. Completely
different purposes. Man, you must really like the written word. I do. I like
reading. I like writing. Did I go in to college planning on doing this? No.
Absolutely not. If we talked to an 18 year old Eli Glazier in August 2008, he
probably just wanted to be super chill and snarky and do well in school (Hi
Mom!). What I did do, and what leaders have to do, is take advantage of
opportunities. I’d like to think I’ve been very good at that over the years. If
Davis Shaver asks me if I want to start a blog in 2008 and I demur, there goes
my Onward State leadership experience. If Ethan Hirsch asks me in 2010 if I
want to start an academic international affairs journal and I say “no”, there
goes the Journal for me. And if I say no to the former and yes to the latter,
then I don’t have the OS experience to inform the Journal leadership. I’ve been
tremendously lucky.

 

Opportunities beget opportunities. My decision to run for
UPUA off-campus representative was informed by my work with Onward State, being
current on the shenanigans of Penn State’s Undergraduate Student Government. If
I could characterize my participation and leadership in the organization in my
first semester, I would say it’s analogous to what I wrote about in one of my
Schreyer essays. You don’t need to be in a leadership position to lead. In an
organization where most of the 35+ representatives don’t speak for the duration
of the weekly meeting, even speaking out on an issue can show leadership. I’ve
certainly tried to do that, using my aforementioned evolved public speaking
skills.  I’ve found that when not
many people are speaking, the words of one person are more powerful. This past
Wednesday, I spoke in opposition to a piece of legislation that would have
curtailed the ability of the Assembly to bring certain types of legislation
right to the floor. Earlier in the day I had prepared remarks. I ended up
speaking for about three and a half minutes from my iPad (Hi Dean Brady!). For
the uninitiated, most legislation that makes it through committee to the floor
passes by near-unanimous margins. Most is so innocuous that there’s no harm in
passing it. This legislation was not innocuous, but without someone speaking
out about it, 35-0-0 was a likely margin for its approval. So after assembling
a small coalition to oppose it, I spoke. A few other people spoke, mostly in
opposition. The measure was defeated 2-33-2. I was very proud. I’m not saying
it would have passed for sure if I hadn’t said anything, but I attempted to make
it very clear that it was in the best interest of each individual member of the
Assembly for the legislation to fail. All it takes is one.

 

I don’t know exactly where I’m going from here. I don’t know
where I’ll end up after Penn State. I don’t know how what I started here will
grow after I’m gone. I don’t know a lot. I do know however that my leadership
experiences here have built upon each other, that I’ve taken something from
everything I’ve done and used it in the next thing, like that sourdough starter
you keep using. So have I developed as a leader? Sure. Do I know how much? No.
I don’t, and that’s okay. 

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