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A Captain's Viewpoint: On Leadership

  Tuesday, September 1, 2015

As a 17-year-old boy in the rural town of Hardyville, Virginia, I viewed my capacity to change the world in a limited light.

Although I was intrigued by international diplomacy and history, the world outside of small-town baseball, roaming the woods and fishing in the Chesapeake Bay seemed unattainable and abstract. My perspective changed when I came to Christopher Newport University.

CNU’s President’s Leadership Program emphasizes the necessity of “participating in being,” as political philosopher Eric Voegelin might say. A leader yearns for new experiences, raises questions and confronts issues to make society’s institutions as sound as possible. At CNU the art of leadership encompasses a number of academic disciplines and pushes students to inquire deeply into various realms of study. My coursework and the relationships I formed here created an environment conducive to my inherently curious nature. As a result, the abstract conception I had of leadership became entirely concrete.

Students of leadership have a predisposition: a desire to cultivate ourselves so that we may be of use to others. Such servant-leadership is more than material aid; it is purposeful action that influences others and the community. Useful leaders are not content with mediocrity or half-hearted attempts at achieving goals. As we learn and grow as leaders, we influence others to take chances, better themselves and serve as sound practitioners of their trades in the community. When I was 12 I began working on a farm, which also included landscaping and construction. My boss demanded more of me than I thought I could handle, and I began to push myself harder in the process. I was compelled to make conscious choices to better myself, while also contributing to the growth of the community.

At CNU the leadership faculty are mentors and open doors for students to pursue research and interact with the community and world. I have worked with many professors both in and out of the classroom, and they all instilled a spirit of curiosity and heightened work ethic. Most of all, the time I spent on study abroad trips to Germany, Poland, China, the UK and Ireland allowed me to comprehend the far-reaching implications of leadership, both as an academic discipline and a practical tool for social refinement and understanding. I learned that the study of leadership examines the human condition rather than simply the managerial structures we operate under as employees or employers. It is a basis for grasping how individuals from different societies and backgrounds construct their identities.

Leaders are educated in worldly affairs beyond formative knowledge. They read deeply, connect ideas and form meaningful relationships so that they may one day act as agents of change. Leaders embody a certain type of self-governance that finds joy in knowledge and intellectual honesty while acting as a moral compass for others. As I embark on my next chapter, I expect a rigorous and dutiful journey, one that takes dedication to the self and to a common discourse for truth, liberty and community.

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