September 28, 2016

Guest Author: Emily Rieders, Florida State University alumna, Conference Coordinator alumna and current Ginsystem employee

Good leadership is not the ability to take a group of people from point A to point B; it is the ability to empower other’s desires to do the same.

It took me a long time (well into my college experience) to understand that out of all the tools I have to help me be successful, my peers are the most valuable. Joining the Panhellenic community my freshman year of college gave me the perspective that I was not alone in my personal endeavors. My sisters, advisors, professors, and friends have shown me all of the feats that I am capable of overcoming through recognizing my own potential. My time as a recruitment counselor, head recruitment counselor, and as a chapter officer was essential to this realization, but the height of my clarity came when I had the chance to co-teach our community’s emerging leader class, in the Spring of 2016.

We had our students do a StrengthsQuest exercise to discover what type of leadership they tend to gravitate towards and come to the next class prepared to talk about their top strengths. I was really excited to better understand the driving forces behind all of our emerging leaders. Was it their empathy for others? Was it their focus and consistency? They were about to learn that in a group of people who seemed so similar, their motivation and strengths were actually bound to be very different.

They discussion began, and I was disheartened to see some students were somewhat ashamed of their strengths. We had women who viewed having command as a masculine trait and didn’t want others to know that they were ambitious. We had men in the class who hid the fact that they had empathy as a top strength, to not seem soft to their male counterparts. None of this made sense to me. These future leaders were already being taught to hide who they are, sometimes even the most prominent parts, because that didn’t fit the social identity that they were told they needed to have. This was the point in their collegiate careers where they were going to make a choice. They either empower others to be the best they can, with all of their strengths (and weaknesses), or they could sit back or not discover their own potential.

I can’t express the joy I felt in my heart when others stepped up and encouraged their peers to explore all of their strengths and be proud of what they can offer to a group. This sparked a lively discussion about servant leadership and how being a leader isn’t necessarily being the person in front of the room, it’s helping others see their own potential and inspiring them to achieve their goals. I had the chance to witness these emerging leaders speak up and empower others to believe in themselves. Now that they have found this voice, I hope they never remain silent.