Follow this, then lead
What leadership qualities do you, as students, need to be credible and effective in a country like yours and on a campus like ours?
- A commitment to humanity that is not predicated on colour, creed, culture, class or campus.
How will I see this? When your friendship circles are not predictable by tribe; when you embrace rather than tolerate difference; when, as Christian student leaders, you organise Eid celebrations for Muslim students and agitate for recognition of Jewish holy days; when your concerns stretch across all three campuses, and not only the one in which you reside.
- A commitment to justice, recognising inequalities and poverty among us.
How will I see this? When you work hard to include those without money to further their studies; when you set up a bursary fund to support students with good academic marks but little money; when you set up an advice desk to help students develop financial aid plans; when you make representations to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to release funds on time; when you debate the senior management of this university to create even more opportunities for poor but academically deserving students.
- A commitment to learning, recognising that the Student Representative Council experience is merely a platform that prepares you for future leadership in the world.
How will I see this? When you raise funds to attend leadership training and development courses elsewhere in South Africa; when you ask the question: "What did we learn from this experience?" or "How can we do it better next time?" When it becomes evident with the passage of time that you are stronger, more mature and more skilled as a student leader.
- A commitment to internationalisation, and recognising the interconnectedness of academic pursuits and human struggles everywhere.
How will I see this? When you place international students near the top of your agenda for change; when you actually visit regional countries to host meetings for parents of our students; when you host regular information sessions for international students; when you open your activism agenda to partnerships with students elsewhere in Africa and the world.
- A commitment to proactivism recognising that mere reaction is the weakest form of leadership.
How will I see this? When you do not wait for deregistration to happen but set up a whole range of strategies to prevent or limit the fallout from this process; when you identify in advance the kinds of agendas that promote change, such as the Kovsie Green initiatives; when you agitate for better living conditions for social work students in town or for private student accommodation in the suburbs.
- A commitment to exemplarity, recognising that the model of leadership you pursue would be counter-cultural and yet critical for developing a more humane campus and country.
How will I see this? No tantrums because you cannot get what you want; no disrespect for fellow students or academic staff; a steady public posture when under fire; a steadfast refusal to retreat into religious or political affiliations when in a crisis; being an example to followers in every way.
- A commitment to resilience, recognising that the test of true leadership is the capacity to emerge from crises with your integrity intact.
How will I see this? You remain calm in the face of threats from unruly students; you remain firm and principled in your commitment to what is right and what is just; you do not stoop to the level of your intimidators; it becomes evident that you have a good grip on your emotions - a sine qua non for credible leadership in the future.
- A commitment to hope and healing, knowing that there is so much on campus and in the country that could cause despair.
How will I see this? You are constantly hopeful among students, even in dire situations; you do not become part of the complaint or the despair; you make a plan when others have none; you console those in despair even as you show them possible ways out of their troubles.