May 13, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Authentic Leadership: Aligning our Actions with our Values as Alpha Phis

Though the final weeks of the spring semester can be stressful, they are always my favorite. Amidst exams, papers and projects, hard work and dedication finally become tangible results. These are the weeks filled with banquets, award ceremonies, presentations, release parties and inductions—all culminating in the ultimate accomplishment: commencement. But in each of these cases, knowing deep down something is worth celebrating always proves more gratifying than a piece of paper affirming it.

That being said, I look back on the past year, trying to recognize the difference between going through the motions and purposefully completing tasks. For example, have you ever received a good grade on an exam or paper you weren't sure you genuinely deserved? You followed all the instructions, but the results weren't overly impressive. I think it’s safe to say we've all chosen an “easy A” class at some point—the one that gave our GPAs some extra padding, allowing us to sacrifice as few drops of blood, sweat and tears as possible. The classes we genuinely struggled through were so much more gratifying, even if they didn't necessarily bring us closer to the Dean’s List. Maybe we didn't get As on every assignment, but when we did finally ace one, we knew we had earned it.

Leadership is pretty similar. It’s easy to list a whole slew of positions on your resume, but if you didn't really accomplish anything through them, they’re nothing more than placeholders. In Greek Life—and in Alpha Phi—we spend a lot of time talking about leadership, defining it and trying to cultivate it. While talking is a good place to start, if no one wants to listen to you, you probably don’t have many followers. And, if no one wants to follow you, can you really call yourself a leader?

Leaders encounter problems in need of solving. This is inherent in the job description. Sometimes it’s exciting, providing opportunities for innovation and creativity. Other times it’s like maneuvering a maze, endlessly trying and failing to find the way out. The answers aren't always clear. In Alpha Phi, authentic leadership means going beyond the “easy A.” It means using our values to help us navigate through the challenging situations we encounter, not just in college but in life. We are going to experience a need for loyalty, sisterhood, service, scholarship, character development and leadership both in the present and in our futures. Simply acknowledging this isn't enough—we need to act on it too. At the end of the day, it’s our actions—reinforced by our words—that make us leaders.

As I look forward to this year’s commencement, I know our seniors see their diplomas as more than just grade point averages and specific numbers of completed credit hours. They symbolize the friendships and experiences collected over the last few years, representing the ongoing effort to align actions with values in order to achieve personal and collective success. The year may be coming to the end, but we will continue to face new and unique challenges, striving for authenticity—rather than perfection—in our efforts to overcome them.

Alina Walentowicz is a collegiate member at SUNY/Plattsburgh (Theta Psi). Learn more about Alina by clicking here.

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