Words to Live By

Embrace the noise. / Learn from the gray. / Leave heartprints.

These quotes and scores of others cover a wall of the Oskin Leadership Institute, but they’re not just any old proverbs. Alongside each quote lies a headshot of a student who has completed their leadership certificate, and the words beside them represent their unique leadership philosophy–all in 28 characters or less.

“If you ever got a tattoo, this is what it should be. Each leadership philosophy is perennial; it’s just part of who you are,” Dr. Arthur Schwartz, director of the Oskin Leadership Institute and creator of the leadership philosophy wall explained. Schwartz first implemented the leadership philosophy concept while working as Senior Scholar at the United States Air Force Academy. After developing their own philosophies, cadets would paint those words onto bricks, hence the character limit.

Development and presentation of the leadership philosophy is the final step in completing a leadership certificate at Widener. Students work one-on-one with a member of the Oskin Advisory Board to refine their philosophy and the story behind it before presenting the complete project to their peers.

Schwartz notes that advice is often given in short, memorable sayings that stick with us, but behind each brief leadership philosophy on the wall is a meaningful story that has shaped each student into the leader they are today.

That means a lot to Katlyn Lichty, psychology ‘17, who completed her leadership certificate this spring alongside more than 60 other students. When it came time to define her leadership philosophy, she knew right away what words she would choose.

“My philosophy is ‘Be the task, great or small,’ which is part of a quote my dad always used to say.” Lichty held this advice close throughout high school and college but says she didn’t realize the full effect those words could have until she began learning more about leadership through the certificate program.

Lichty, who plans to attend graduate school for addiction counseling, says that defining her philosophy has given her confidence to better relate to those different from her: “My clients are leaders of their own recovery. If I can lead people by acting upon my little quote of truly being the task and doing things well no matter how big or small and finding the purpose in everything, then I can carry that over into helping others do that themselves.”

Now that she’s earned her spot on the wall, Lichty knows just how much work and personal evaluation goes behind every philosophy.

“It’s amazing that this wall is now covered with people who are taking time out of their day to do something for themselves and in turn, to do something for others.”