e very act of writing this article exposes my own hypocrisy. I write articles for Commentary because I like to write and to voice my thoughts on paper. But a small part of me is motivated to write this article because of a potential future leadership position. There constantly exists a tension between my working towards becoming a more skillful writer and working towards a position that inspired the article. Because leadership positions are so highly competitive and sought after, that careful balance between personal betterment and title is often disrupted. When the desire for the position itself outweighs the actual passion towards the area of interest, then striving for leadership positions is turned into a meaningless competition.
At Andover, almost all students strive to be leaders, whether that be as a prefect, proctor, a club board member, part of the student government, or another position with influence. Leadership positions are a form of currency on campus used to determine the worth of a student. It is true that a leadership position requires above average skill and commitment to an area of interest, that very definition is wearing thin. Somehow the first part of the equation has been omitted — the part that includes a true passion for the subject matter. When everyone expects or is expected to become a leader, the ability to use the role of leadership as something special vanishes.
The first detrimental aspect of the leadership competition is that it is simply impossible. Unfortunately, not everyone can be a leader, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If everyone were a leader, then no real action could ever be taken. Leaders are not the only people who contribute towards achieving a goal — any person can have an equally large role in materializing an idea into reality. Leadership roles are not the only roles worth having as other positions have equal, if not greater value.
In addition, leadership competition causes students to feel pressured to become leaders regardless of whether or not it is in an area they truly care about. As a student currently in the midst of Lower spring, many club board applications are aimed at my demographic. Filling out the application seems to be a small price to pay for a title, but that mindset is already bordering towards dangerous. I should not fill out an application simply for the sake of grasping onto threads of so called power, but because I believe I have great ideas that I want others to hear about. I should fill an application out so I am able to do more of what I love. At Andover, there is a mentality where being in a place of leadership in any area is better than being without a position. That a student has no worth unless the word leader is printed somewhere in concrete letters.
I commend those that want to become leaders on campus. I commend those that spend additional hours of labor trying to reach their extracurricular goals. And I congratulate those today and in the future that land the spot they have worked and dreamed so hard for. But I discourage those who try to win a leadership position for the sake of the position itself. Leaders are not inherently bad, and it is not bad to want to be one. When the driving power behind the strive to become a leader is constructed for artificial and superficial reasons, there’s a fundamental shift in the integrity of leadership positions.
All I ask is that students work at things that they like, instead of working just for the end result, that students take the paths that they see themselves enjoying and innovating in. In every application, you are competing to do more of what you love, not solely for the title. Be mindful of what that leadership position really means and really entails before you apply. Observe the values and missions behind those positions, and ask if those align with your personal morals. Simply put, know what you love, and let what you love guide your decisions in reaching for those leadership positions. Keep the reasons why close to your heart in the pursuit of the summit.