Thoughts on Leadership

by Don Cunningham, 2001 National OA Chief

    Leadership has been studied for years, dating back to the writings of Attila the Hun. Philosophers, business managers, psychologists, and sociologists alike have attempted to come up with the perfect definition of the vague term "leadership." I feel that no group or professional has come as close as we, the members of the Order of the Arrow, in defining this quality that we strive to instill in our members. Simply put, there is no one definition for a leader. The process of influencing others is subject to interpretation and differs with culture, age, society, etc. However, one attribute applies to all leadership: setting the example. In the Order of the Arrow, we call this "walking like you talk." Our members put it to practice in their daily lives and our leaders make it a reality in units, lodges, and communities across the nation.

    In his inaugural speech, President George W. Bush boldly stated: "Our duty is to fulfill in service to one another, never yielding, never finishing." I cannot think of a better way to describe our obligations as Arrowmen. Servant leadership is truly the essence of our Order. I can assure you that you will find, as I have, that the members of this organization are the finest people you'll ever meet. If you rise to the challenge of sacrifice and recommitment to service, your own life purpose will undoubtedly spark to light. Oswald Spengler eloquently defined our intentions as members of the human race, "This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us; to live and work in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves; to act in such a way that some part of us lives on."

    We face many challenges today, the greatest of which include discrimination and disrespect. Because we have been given the gifts of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service, we have a responsibility to help others find real happiness and success in life. This can only come from our leadership and setting the example. Actions have always spoken much loader than words; the Ordeal is a living example. To quote my government and politics textbook, "It may be said that the test of a truly civil society is not its treatments of popular ideas and of its best citizens but its willingness to tolerate ideas that the majority detests and to treat equally the rights of its least popular citizens" (We The People, Paterson).

    The only way that we may utilize our ability to touch the lives of those around us is to become involved ourselves. It is the spark of light (the spirit of the Order of the Arrow) that enables us to convincingly lead from the heart by simply making good judgments and morally sound contributions to society. Leaders are not born, but rather are raised. Whether or not you believe it, every single Scout ever elected to membership in our Order has the potential to become a great leader. Far greater than title, position, or stature is the quality that separates the truly great leaders from all the rest: compassion for others. Influencing the lives of others and getting them to do what you want because they want to do it is not simple task, but may be achieved by taking an interest in their lives and becoming involved in compromise. Creating win-win situations is the best means of getting the most out of yourself and of your team.

"Things do not change. We change. If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined."

~Henry David Thoreau

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