On February 2, students gathered in Grafton to enhance their leadership skills. Outriggers started off the morning with energizers. After the fun, students’ minds were ready to be filled with leadership wisdom from notable speakers and informing breakout sessions. Dr. Warner was the first speaker to share his take on leadership.
His message centered on being a person who “inspires” or “breathes life into” others. Using the word in acronym form (I. N. S. P. I. R. E.), he walked students through making the most of their leadership role and overall life. Exemplary leaders have integrity, eNjoy the moment, serve others, personify grace, seek internship, practice risk taking, and always expect the best.
Also, Warner shared meaningful lessons including: “the worst mistakes made are the ones we don’t learn from” and ‘we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give’ (Winston Churchill). The best leaders are interns in life; seeking knowledge from every circumstance, whether one of failure or success. Secondly, to lead is to serve others.
Students then dispersed into various breakout sessions throughout Taylor Hall, where they collaborated with administrators and fellow students in focused groups. The next speaker of the day would be President Alger.
After Alger shared the input gained from his nationwide tour, “Why Madison?” the floor was opened up for students to share what they loved most about JMU. It became evident JMU is uniquely special for two common reasons: student engagement in the community and quality of student and faculty interaction. Following Alger, students headed off to their second breakout session. Next was keynote speaker, Delatorro McNeal.
The eccentric and passionate McNeal used his speaking time to engage students in discussion on leadership. Through popular movie clips, the speaker illustrated characteristics of both great and bad leaders.
McNeal presented leadership as a tool, because it isn’t the title of one’s position, rather what one does in that position which makes them a leader. His memorable statement, “there are three bones in the body: jaw-bones (people who talk about their dreams), wish-bones (people who have dreams), and back-bones (people who take action toward their dreams),” describes leaders as active doers rather than passive dreamers. Furthermore, he shared conviction, confidence, passion, strength, initiative, and “belief in you” make an assertive, competent leader.
McNeal noted sometimes leadership requires pointing out the flaws in a process. He said criticism is best reserved for private settings, but praise needn’t be confined to either the public or private; it’s always beneficial. The best leaders actively search for a solution to a problem, even if it means looking to novel sources for inspiration. He added “the lion does not have to roar”, meaning a genuine leader is known by how they live their life, not simply by what they say. Great leaders share their knowledge with others and know when to walk away from their roles. Keeping with Dr. Warner’s speech, McNeal concluded Leadership U with the advice: “leadership starts with service.”