Leading Others Into Leadership

Jovana Kurcubic, Global UGRAD in Serbia and Montenegro 2012-2013

Everything that my fellow alumni previously wrote for the Global Gazette – tips for  travel, academic success, activities on campus, and dealing with all kinds of situations and opportunities you might encounter during your year (or less) of stay – is indisputably true. It showcases the many exciting aspects of the U.S. experience for every international exchange student. It made me proud to read everything these people had to say about their experiences and inspired me to write something, too.

I thought a lot about the topic that I wanted to write – should I add something insightful about internships? Should I write about tips & tricks for successful sightseeing in some of the biggest cities that I got a chance to visit? Should I… ? Maybe on another occasion. For now, I want to write about another aspect of being a UGRAD student – something that is often emphasized before your departure, but yet something so easy to forget once in the States – LEADERSHIP.

Leadership skills are easily ignored or put aside due to prejudices or insecurities that a new environment can cause. After reflecting on all the personal experiences during my time as a UGRAD student, I hope I am finally ready to convey the message I have for all of you silent leaders out there.

While studying at the University of Southern Indiana (USI), I got to meet a lot of new people from different nations, traditions, religions, and races. They were so different, yet they all had one thing in common: for most of them, I was the first person from Serbia they had ever met, and they were the first people of their countries whom I got to meet. The more I thought about it, the bigger responsibility I felt to be my country’s “ambassador.” I was leading them while telling them about my friends, family traditions, universities, our landscapes, and everything they wanted to know. Then again, I was following as they taught me things about their countries. No, this was no history or geography class – this was Enriching Your Life 101. Looking back a year later, it almost feels unreal. Simply put: these people made my world feel complete. They made the puzzle of my life a better picture.

This is the essential part of leadership not a lot of us get to hear or think about – LISTENING to yourself as well as others. Being the ‘know-it-all’ person will not get you anywhere in life, socially or professionally. People seek listeners and learners. I read somewhere once that the whole purpose of becoming a leader is to inspire others to become leaders on their own, and I assure you, this is one of the simplest yet most profound cliché phrases I have ever heard.

Being a leader is not about being the best at everything you put your mind to or being flawless; it’s about who you inspire to try something new and make their own life story. If you care enough to listen, you will be amazed how your life becomes enriched in many ways after a rather short period of time. Hearing others’ stories will also teach you how to analyze your own experiences from a different viewpoint, as well as how to have different approaches to situations you may encounter later in life. Once you have learned how to listen and how to share with others, all you have left in your road to success is hard work and dedication. Realize your own potential by inspiring others to lead.

That last bit sounds a bit contradicting, doesn’t it? Believe me, it is not. Once you learn that leadership is not about being the loudest in the room, but instead being the most inspiring among others at a given moment, you will understand that this is what your potential is for: we are here to create more leaders. Although not all of us can be that type of leader, every individual will find their personal manner of leading if we inspire them to do so. We want to create a leadership network so we can keep making this world a better place, and it all starts from the U.S., today. As Lao Tzu said: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Let the best acknowledgement of your leadership be that you were able to reach your full human and intellectual potential through sharing it with others. I’ll see you on the leaders’ side!

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