Leadership about creating a positive impact

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Recently, I was asked to write an article about why someone my age is motivated to learn about leadership. I cannot answer for a majority of people my age, however, the reason that I have been motivated to devote much of my education and time to leadership is that I have been shown the value of positive leadership and seen the devastating effects of negative leadership.
My grandfather taught me the essentials of leadership. He showed me these lessons through his dedication to society, and through his desire to build the community in which he lived. I remember the lessons that I learned all those years ago and try to replicate the civic involvement and service in which I was shown.
Truly, it is a personal desire to help that motivates me to learn about leadership and dedicate my time to serving others. I see leadership as an avenue that I can use to pay back all those people who helped me.
However, it’s not just paying them back; it is paying society back. I look at my involvement in leadership and how it allows me to pay society in three ways. I strive to make my actions pay for the past, pay for today and or pay for the future.
Some might read this article and view the word “pay” with a negative connotation. Instead, I challenge you to see this word in the optimistic sense, since someone paid attention to me. They sacrificed their time and effort, showing me their passion for helping. It is that payment which I wish to duplicate.
Paying for the past is easier than it sounds.
Growing up I was involved with the Boys Scouts of America and athletics. While both of those activities taught me a lot, it was the people with whom I interacted that were the true teachers. In fifth grade, a group of collegiate athletes helped us with our studies. Although I don’t remember their names, I do remember how much I looked up to them and truly wanted to be like them. I wanted to make sure that when I grew up, I remembered to help make a difference in the community; hopefully leaving a positive image for future generations.
While participating in a collegiate leadership seminar hosted by El Pomar, we discussed taking intangible thoughts and making them into tangible action. This plan of turning ideas into goals, projects or activities is the way in which I see myself paying for today.
Recently, I have been able to participate and help several organizations brainstorm, initiate and create great projects that have inspired others. The opportunity to take even the most challenging ideas and develop them into positive situations is another reason why I am inspired to learn and strive to be a leader.
The most effective leaders are those who can inspire and show people that even the most intangible thoughts can be put into action, resulting in positive change and collaboration.
One of the hardest questions that I have been asked during the last couple years was, “What legacy do you hope to leave when you die?”
It is a simple question really, but it is not that easy to answer. The way in which I see myself paying for the future is that I hope to be a positive example for my friends, coworkers, family and even strangers that I meet.
A legacy is arguably one of the most important pieces to our lives and it is often the most overlooked. Now that I have completed my undergraduate degree, I will begin to focus on how I will pay for the future. This will be the time where I get to focus on the situations in which I feel that I can make a lasting impact, thus leaving my personal legacy.
When someone asks why at 22 years of age are you interested in learning about leadership and serving others, I will have an answer. I am motivated by the possibilities of the future. The best part about living right now is that the future is yet to be written.
Being able to create a positive impact in the future, now that’s a wonderful challenge for a leader.
James Bjorklund is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He is an El Pomar scholar, a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class and a member of the varsity soccer team. This summer he joins the El Pomar Fellows Class of 2007.