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Reflection on Virtuous Leadership

Written by Meagan Nijenhuis, 2014 Summer Intern

I was pumped. I’d made the long trek into Toronto: boarded the train in Guelph, was delayed 27 minutes by construction along the tracks, survived the crush of people arriving at Union, found the Northbound subway to Eglinton (Note: sometimes the flow of traffic isn’t going to the same place that you need to go), wove my way from the subway up to the light of day, headed through more construction down the road to the office, marched up the stairs (who does elevators?) and finally arrived at the office to the lovely, smiling ladies of NCLN. Woot! Made it!

We started going over what I’d be doing for the next six weeks and Rebecca handed me some additional reading: “Virtuous Leadership” by Alexandre Havard. “It’s a bit dry,” she said, “but a good read.” It looked dry. I figured I would get it over and done with so I started reading it on the train home. What an eye-opening treasure it was! A literary work of art, it unpacked the virtues that are necessary for effective leadership.

And oh did I need to hear it. I’ll be taking up the position of president for the Life Choice club at Guelph this fall. That’s just a tad intimidating. When you have a pro-life club to lead this often means dealing with chanting pro-choicers and challenging student unions, learning about all your club members so you know how best to delegate tasks, and holding meetings and activism several times a month. Havard had a few lessons to teach me about leadership.

virtuous leadershipTrue leadership is inextricably tied to a virtuous character. When we have virtue, we have the ability to turn our dream into reality. People will want to join us in bringing our dream to our campus and we’ll be able to empower them to that end. As Havard puts it, “the more deeply we live the virtues,… the more likely it is that we will change the culture.” The campus culture currently reeks of individualism, immorality and death. Only with virtue can we change the hearts and minds of the students around us.

As leaders we must live the virtues. Havard explains that with magnanimity we devote ourselves so generously to a cause that we give our very selves. We hold nothing back from our work and our zeal becomes contagious. The people on campus are more likely to pay attention when they see our hearts in it. Practicing humility, we seek to empower those around us by delegating tasks and training members so that we are not irreplaceable. Prudence critically analyzes what is the best way to make the biggest impact on campus. To carry forward these actions, we need courage, not just boldness and daring, but endurance in the the daily grind. Self- control is choosing to do what is necessary (like club accreditation *gag*) when we’d much prefer a trip to William’s with our club members. We need to be students of human nature to bring justice with love. We have this duty to everyone around us. Character ingrained with these virtues will make us the leaders our campus needs.

At Guelph, we have between 15 and 20 committed members who try to make it out to our weekly meetings. What Havard helped me to see in the virtues of humility and justice was that between the past president and myself, we were trying to lead the club alone. All our club members had to do was come and learn. We actually owe them so much more; our duty is to empower them as leaders. If I start delegating tasks, they will have so much more room to grow. We can be an unstoppable force on campus, reaching so many more people!

Our campus also needs us to be individuals, appreciating the unique qualities of each individual club member and of every person we bring the message to on campus. Justice requires it. If we are individualistic, however, we are ruined. We need to be unique while remaining interconnected. Please excuse the science major in me but I’d like to demonstrate with an analogy. We are like the zooids of a pyrosome (Say whaaaaaat?). This deep sea colony (the pyrosome) is essentially made up of thousands of tiny interconnected organisms (the zooids). The physical connection as well as the light sensitivity of each zooid creates bioluminescence so that the whole colony is aglow. We need similar relationships in order to help each other emit the light of the pro-life message in the dark waters of our campus.

Leadership is more than being able to stand up and talk to a crowd of people. It takes serious effort to develop ourselves into virtuous and excellent leaders but it’s so worth it. We will be able see the leaders growing around us, the hearts being changed, and the message of life blowing away the stench of the death culture on campus. Together, by becoming virtuous leaders, we will be able to make our dream a reality and end abortion in our lifetime.

Havard, Alexandre. Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence. New York: Scepter, 2007. Print.
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