Genuine Leadership: A Student's Perspective

Being a cat owner myself, I can confirm that cats usually want the opposite of what they have and believe no command is worth following unless it was their idea in the first place. Before arriving at Baylor, I thought that leading and managing were synonymous.

November 14, 2015

However, over the course of my undergraduate career, I’ve come to understand that while the two are related, leadership is subtly different. You may not be able to command cats but you can lead them.

Baylor, specifically ECS, fosters leadership skills by providing ample opportunities for students — from freshman to senior year. Whether it’s during Welcome Week introducing new students to life at Baylor, throughout the year in various student organizations, or in the classroom collaborating on a project, every student has a chance to lead. 

I have been a Welcome Week leader for the past three years, so I have become familiar with student leadership in ECS. Welcome Week leaders guide a group of incoming freshmen through their first days at Baylor. My goal as a leader was to serve these new students by being an accessible mentor: answering questions, walking through their schedules, and teaching them about all the little things, like the quietest study spots in the library or which dining hall bakes the best chocolate chip cookies. It’s this emphasis on leadership through service that makes programs like Welcome Week so effective.

Mary Lauren Benton
Mary Lauren Benton is a senior Bioinformatics major, most recently from San Antonio, Texas. She plans to graduate in May 2015 and pursue a doctorate degree in computational biology.

ECS is also home to several different student organizations that allow students to come together in extracurricular activities. These provide an opportunity for students to facilitate partnerships with professionals in industry and academics throughout the university. One of the things that sets ECS apart in this area is the ability to build relationships with faculty members who practice the same kind of leadership they encourage in their students. As the president of one of these organizations and a small group leader in another, I have been able to associate more closely with the faculty members in my department, and the wisdom I have gained from these role models has been invaluable.

I’m a firm believer in Baylor’s integration of leadership and academics. Graduate schools and professional careers rely heavily on communication and leadership skills — qualities I was able to develop during my undergraduate years at Baylor. Through student leadership positions and collaborative work in the classroom, I realized the importance of proper coordination in order to ensure the success of events and projects and learned how to discuss ideas with both my peers and my professors. 

Although those management skills are incredibly valuable, the most important lesson I’ve learned is not how to be a better manager, but how to be a true leader: by leading through service and out of love. Baylor’s emphasis on a Christian mission in a leadership context provides a fresh perspective and kept my leadership style from becoming self-serving or micromanaging. So, if nothing else, at least I have a bright future herding cats.