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Agnieszka Song: What it Takes to be a Leader

As part of the Sophia Blackmore Leadership Programme, Agnieszka Song from Secondary 3E reflected on her leadership experience as a student councillor. She feels that an effective leader should be able to communicate ideas clearly and exercise empathy. She also emphasised that leadership is not based on a position, but is demonstrated through one’s actions. She hopes that fellow Fairsians will be inspired to take the initiative to lead, even if they are not holding an official position. (This speech was delivered in April 2021 during morning assembly.)

Agnieszka’s Speech

John Maxwell, a pastor and an author who has written many books on leadership, once said, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” This begs the question of whether it is really necessary to hold a position in order to be an influential leader.

Good morning Ms Chen, Vice Principals, teachers, and fellow Fairsians. I am Agnieszka Song from Secondary 3E. Today, as part of the Sophia Blackmore Leadership Programme, I will be sharing with you on this topic, ‘What it truly takes to be a leader’. 

First, let us ponder on this question: What exactly is leadership? Is it only about leading others? 

According to a Forbes article, a leader is someone who can be relied on — a person who is dependable and trustworthy. A leader should be able to rally the team to overcome barriers and achieve goals. Clear communication of ideas and information is vital in leadership because it helps the team members to achieve their goals. 

Moreover, successful leaders need to be empathetic and connect with people. We need to try to understand and relate with others so as to better help our teammates who are struggling. If we’re not empathetic, we will not be able to understand the challenges faced by our teammates. This results in decreased efficiency as the challenges and issues are not resolved. 

Personally, I have had many empathetic leaders. For example, in the Student Council, my department heads, Edith and Micaela, will always provide reasonable deadlines for all projects. Their policy is based on their understanding of the Secondary 3 students’ workload. As a result of their planning, many projects that we have worked on together were punctually completed. 

In addition, true leadership is certainly more than just authority and external recognition. It’s about developing and helping others to reach their fullest potential. It’s about equipping others with the right tools and strategies, not only to maximise the success of an organisation, but also enhance the lives of individuals. From this definition of leadership, we know that leadership is, therefore, about influencing others positively. 

You might now be wondering about the concept of influence. Is it similar to the influencers that many people follow on Instagram? This is not really the case. Influence is about someone’s capacity to have an effect on others’ character, development, or behaviour. Anyone can influence anyone — just like how celebrities can influence us to adopt a certain hairstyle, or how our friends can influence us to do something. 

We don’t have to be someone of authority to influence or take charge of others. For instance, we don’t have to be a student leader in school or have a position in our CCA to demonstrate leadership. There are many other platforms we can influence others, such as group work. We can step up and take charge of the group to ensure that the project runs smoothly and successfully. That is also a form of leadership! By doing so, we are influencing our groupmates to do their best to achieve success.

As conveyed earlier, anyone can be a leader. Our own actions and behaviour can influence someone to behave or act in a certain manner, which is why all of us can Model the Way. Modelling the way is one of the five practices of exemplary leadership. It is also the act of authentically embracing and displaying our values to those around us. All of us should set a good example for our peers and display the values that we strongly believe in. 

In conclusion, anyone can be a leader. We do not have to hold an official position to lead others. However, we need to be a more effective communicator and empathetic person. I believe that all of us can step up to be a leader, be it in class, during our CCA sessions or even on a school-wide level. All of us have the potential to be a leader.

Thank you for listening to my speech.