Much has been said about effective leadership during the days surrounding Jan. 20’s presidential inauguration. Locally, newly-elected student officers at Central Montco Technical High School and classmates from their sending schools view it this way:
“A common thread that you will find in all leaders is the ability to be self-aware and possess good communication skills and integrity,” says Cameron Johnson, co-president of Norristown Area High School’s Class of 2021.
Combined, these qualities “are the core of a true leader,” observes Johnson, a CMTHS Allied Health major and active HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) member, president of CMTHS’s National Technical Honor Society and vice-president of NAHS’s Black Student Union.
Fellow Allied Health major and NAHS student D’zire McNeal Sanchez realizes “being a leader isn’t always easy.”
“A leader is constantly facing challenges, the biggest of which is how to be a great leader every day,” says McNeal Sanchez, who serves as vice-president for Penn HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America). “A leader inspires to innovate, is self-aware, supporting, can delegate and be gracious to others. Knowing and understanding what you’re standing for as well as where you’re headed is the key to being an effective leader.”
So is “having a passion for what you do.” Also key, “maintaining a positive attitude and remaining professional when placed in tough situations.”
NAHS’s Maria Estrada and Plymouth Whitemarsh High School’s Alleya Flowers and Dylan Stimmler recently took the reins as CMTHS SkillsUSA officers.
“To me, a leader is dedicated to what they do and is willing to provide a helping hand when others are lost,” says Estrada, an Allied Health major. “A leader is viewed as a role model, and they represent the school or community they are part of. Empathy, integrity, determination and accountability are traits that make a great leader.”
Estrada believes “you do not have to have a leadership position to be a leader.”
“You can be a leader in your community by influencing and motivating others to participate in events,” she explains. “In school, you can join a club or sport … participate in community service events and encourage others to join … lead by example.”
Flowers, a student in CMTHS’s Early Childhood Education program, says strong leaders’ “main qualities … are focusing on developing others and encouraging togetherness.”
As she sees it, those traits “demonstrate strategic thinking, innovation and -- most importantly -- showing all this through taking action.”
According to Stimmler, the ability “to focus on a task and complete it efficiently” is one of an effective leader’s top qualities.
“Another thing that makes a good leader is when a person has good social skills and can work with groups of people,” says the CMTHS Baking and Pastry Arts major. “This helps because you need to communicate … so that things can get done more easily.”
Alitres Leon-Alvarez, a CMTHS Healthcare Sciences student, thinks of “integrity, empathy, courage and … great communicator” as leadership qualities.
“I would say an effective leader is a person with a passion for a cause that is greater than they are … someone with a vision (who) is driven to want to better society or, at least, some portion of it,” says Leon-Alvarez, who serves as treasurer of CMTHS’s National Technical Honor Society.
PW classmate Kennedy Covington says effective leaders need “to be able to listen to what their followers need and want to see happen.”
“The leader should be able to take the proper initiative to move forward and act on what their followers have voiced to them,” notes Covington, secretary of PW’s Class of 2021. “An effective leader is not afraid to be in the minority with their opinions; however, they are willing to compromise if it ensures the outcome will be for the greater good.
“An effective leader must be kind and communicative … not shy away from conflict and, instead, search for ways to approach it and de-escalate the situation. An effective leader is one that does not discriminate or look to divide, instead … work to unify.”
As a member of the Principal’s Leadership Council, president of PW’s National Honor Society and captain of the school’s varsity swim team, Tom Manley has had plenty of opportunities to hone his approach to leadership. Key factors? “Know your people, and take care of your people.”
“I also believe that leaders have to lead by example, adds the PW senior, also a member of the school’s Robotics Club and Summer Orientation Leadership group, four-year soccer player and PW Summer Soccer Camp counselor. “I would never ask my team members to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself as a leader.
“A good leader understands how each of their team members functions and what drives them to succeed (and) … is able to use their team’s strengths to accomplish the overall goal effectively while also addressing and improving individual weaknesses in a positive manner. Additionally, an effective leader provides the necessary tools to their team members and backs them up.”
That includes doing “everything in his or her power” to secure the necessary resources required to achieve even the most difficult tasks.
“These qualities and actions build the trust and respect within the team (and demonstrate) how much the leader cares about them and their relationship,” Manley says.
Student council leaders at nearby Colonial Middle School have already begun to formulate their thoughts about leadership.
CMS student Akhil Roy ranks “loyalty” as a must for effective leaders and reasons they “should be able to work with and alongside their colleagues, be able to calmly make reasonable decisions and be willing to serve their country or group no matter what.”
“First of all, any person who can work with others … despite their differences is a great leader,” Roy says. “Secondly, a great leader should be able to calmly make strategic decisions. A leader in our country is making a decision for many people. They have the trust of everyone who wanted them there, and if they crack under pressure instead of remaining calm … their decision-making may be biased or out of self-preservation, which does not make a great leader.”
On the other hand, being “able to grow and learn from their mistakes” is also the mark of a good leader, figures Student Council’s Kirthi Roy.
What’s more, good leaders “should be a confident representative of their group and not only lead the people but collaborate with them and hear what they have to say,” Roy says. “When you Google the top characteristics of a leader, the first three that show up are empathy, integrity and humility. I agree with that 100 percent, especially humility.”
CMTHS is located at Plymouth Road and New Hope Street in Plymouth Township and mainly enrolls students from the Colonial, Norristown and Upper Merion Area School Districts.