By: Miriam Schloss  | 

From the Syms Student Council President’s Desk: Leadership Without Authority

For those of you that know me, it’s easy to imagine that my interest in school involvement didn’t start in college. In high school, I liked to be involved in various programs and loved that I got to be in as many groups as I was. Though my involvement sometimes ended with me taking on a leadership role, it always started with the goal of involvement.

In my last year of high school, I got involved in the Senior Dinner. Most of that event is a blur for me at this point, but there is one moment that stands out. There was a moment of indecision, where something needed to happen but there was no one with the certainty to make the call. After awkwardly not knowing what to do, it was a relief to see the executive director of the school walk into the room. She immediately asked me why the “thing-that-needed-to-be-done” hadn’t happened yet, and I told her that I didn’t think I had the authority to do it. 

Her response: “You don’t need authority. You just need leadership.” 

Her response is one that I have written in my list of quotes and think about often. It was one of the first times I had put leadership in a framework that was separated from authority. From my perspective at the time, I had experience with leadership. I held multiple roles where I directed a team, implemented events or took care of administrative tasks on behalf of a larger group. I did those things because someone gave me permission to fill that role. To be comfortable in that kind of position, I needed to be given the authority to make decisions on behalf of others.

I have since come to think of leadership differently because I now recognize that you don’t need authority to be a leader. Leaders make the decision that something needs to be done and then they make it happen. It’s not a role that someone can give you, it’s a role that you decide to step into.

The more involved I am in school programming, the more I encounter people stepping into those kinds of roles. Sometimes it’s someone who takes on being a club head for a club that would otherwise not exist. Sometimes it’s someone who brings a chessed project to campus in reaction to larger world events. Sometimes it’s someone who wants to start an initiative that will bring our campus community together. Regardless of the project or initiative, it’s the people who act as leaders that are the ones making an impact.

I invite you to lead. I invite you to take initiative to fill a need on campus. There are things that need to be done and student councils have the resources to help make them happen. But if you think that only appointed students can bring your ideas to life, you’re wrong. To make them happen, you don’t need authority, you just need leadership.

Photo Caption: Syms Student Council Logo

Photo Credit: Syms Student Council