By John Klingler '18
Apart from 6th period free and the value of intramurals, nothing inspires strong feeling and debate within the STA community like the value of school leadership positions. By ‘leadership positions’, I’m referring to positions like Prefect, Club President, and Team Captain. Some people ardently defend their value; pointing out that leaders – and the positions that they fill – make a difference in the school community. Others take a more cynical view, believing leadership positions to be nothing more than college-app fluff, something that helps you in your applications but doesn’t make a difference to the life of the school.
Before I start sharing my opinion on this issue, I think it’s necessary to acknowledge my own vantage-point to this issue, and therefore, address my own biases. I hold a number of leadership positions. I have been a prefect and class president for the Class of 2018. I’m the Co-Editor of The STA News, Editor of Gyre, Co-President of Model UN. I’m a co-captain (though some may argue that such a position doesn’t exist) of the Cross-Country team. My opinion on the issue, obviously, is influenced by my own leadership positions.
However, how I feel is more nuanced than ‘leadership positions are good’ or ‘leadership positions are bad’. Instead, I think that many members of the STA community approach leadership in the wrong way. Too often, a leadership position becomes an intrinsic goal, something to put on the Common App rather than a responsibility to serve the school. When this happens, everyone loses. Students lack strong leadership, leaders don’t grow as individuals, and the culture of the school drifts from its foundational values. Symptoms of this behavior include significant politicking for comparatively small positions and apathetic or static clubs. Each year, we have extracurricular activities that only exist on people’s college applications; after having a single meeting, an ambitious senior will declare themselves president of a club and never look back. This is a problem, and it’s an example of poor leadership.
However, when leaders at STA do step forward for the right reasons, the results are phenomenal. Things can get done, strong values can be passed down, the school can be made better. This happens particularly well – in my opinion – on sports teams and in the Student Council. On the field, teams are led by a group of leaders elected by their peers; these individuals run grueling practices, demonstrate good sportsmanship, and dedicate themselves to the team. Someone particularly good in this regard was Charles Snowden (STA ’17), who set the precedent for sportsmanship on the field and leadership in the locker room. In the student council, the prefects work hard to plan events, speak to their forms (sometimes with no teachers present) about difficult topics, and serve on the Honor and Discipline councils. The work is, at times, not easy but the results can make the school better.
So, with that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when approaching leadership positions. I’ll call them Klingler’s Three Rules to Holding a Leadership Position: