Widener University and the Oskin Leadership Institute, in partnership with NBC10, founded the High School Leadership Awards program in 2011 to identify the region’s high school students who embody the university’s commitment to develop and inspire leaders who affect positive change. Each year, principals of high schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are encouraged to identify one current higher school junior who has demonstrated courage by standing up for what is right, found a way to address a wrong, or made a difference in a significant way at his or her school or community. Each year winners are recognized at the National Constitution Center and invited to participate in a conference at Widener. High School Leadership Award winners who choose to enroll at Widener receive a $20,000 scholarship over four years.
Dr. Arthur Schwartz spoke with nine High School Leadership Award winners who selected Widener as their college of choice. These freshmen students are now known on Widener’s campus as Apogee Scholars–so named because of their high-potential for leading change on campus and beyond.
Here are their answers to a few questions posed during the conversation with Dr. Schwartz:
How has the media shaped your view of leadership?
What I see on TV, be it the news or shows, does not accurately or fully portray what really goes on every day. I feel as though the media tends to belittle the actual responsibilities of a leader. When we think of leaders, we tend to drift to people we see in high positions, like the President or Chief of Staff, and overlook the individuals around us who demonstrate “subtle” leadership qualities.
The media hasn’t shaped my view of leadership. A leader is a leader regardless of
recognition, popularity, or dramatization. However, the media has played a role in
identifying leaders and acknowledging them for their commitment and efforts. If anything,
the media has made me more aware of the abounding qualities and different styles of
a leader. Leaders can do without the media, but the media can’t survive without leaders.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten that will help you be a good leader?
Since I was young, my mother has always used the same, simple phrase to keep me motivated as a leader. She would always tell me, “Don’t be a follower.” The part that makes the statement so significant to me is that the phrase does not start nor finish with “Be a leader.” When my mother first started using this line, I was never really sure what it meant. As I got older, I realized it was more than a simple motto – it was a call to have my own ideas, to be critical, and to never assume that something is the “right” or “best” thing just because “everyone else is doing it."
The best advice I ever received about leadership was from my father. He always told me: “You’re only as fast as the slowest man.” This quote is significant to me because as a leader. Take the infielders in a baseball game. You need a first baseman, second baseman, short stop, and third base. Without one of these key positions, there are major holes in the field where hits can occur time and time again. That’s why all positions are necessary to win.
“Leaders listen first” is a common expression. What does that saying mean to you?
Leaders listen first, makes so much sense to me. To be a leader you have to listen to everyone else and what’s going on around you. That means you cannot just assume that what you think is right nor try to instill your thoughts into others. You need to have an open mind and respect other people’s thoughts and be able to listen to what others have to offer.
All leaders would be wise to practice what is written in The Book of Proverbs: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that I may gain wisdom in the future.” As a leader, I seek the wisdom of others, because wisdom is the principle objective.