The Columns

My W&L: Bailey Russell ’16

— by on September 5th, 2016

Bailey Russell '16

“Leadership at W&L is not about power or popularity; it is about working toward a common goal with others.”

Leadership at W&L is not about power or popularity; it is about working toward a common goal with others. W&L has completely changed my perspective on leadership. In high school, I had many leadership experiences and held many positions. When not elected to a position, I felt off the hook for that organization, giving me more time to focus on the ones where I did hold a position. When I came to W&L, I had great ambitions–things that I wanted to do, be involved with, and most importantly, lead. After getting accepted to the Leadership Venture pre-orientation trip, I felt that I was on my way to success. Throughout the trip and my first weeks at W&L, I quickly learned that there are ways to be a leader without holding a position or having a title. Simply as a member of an organization, you can use your gifts to work for the greater good of the group. Being a leader is not about recognition and glory; it is about taking initiative, whether that be making a bold statement or doing something behind the scenes that may go unnoticed. Being a leader is sometimes making sacrifices to pull something together last minute. Being a leader is about enthusiasm and giving 100% effort for the group.

Prior to W&L, my leadership experiences had mostly been about me and furthering myself in leadership, not about the group I was leading. I learned a lot as a member of First-Year Leadership Council about being a team player and about delegating responsibilities. Now I am much more focused on the common goal and deducing ways I can use my strengths to further this goal. I was also given the advice my freshmen year not to spread myself too thin. This is something I struggle with constantly. Especially at W&L, there are always so many exciting things to get involved with on campus, and I have to remind myself that I cannot do everything. I have had a much more enriching leadership experience being involved in a few things that I am passionate about rather than being involved in too many things and not being able give the adequate amount of effort and attention to them.

All of this is not to say that I have leadership at Washington and Lee all under control. I struggle daily to balance my schoolwork and extracurricular commitments; it can be overwhelming. And often times I have to remind myself of the things that I learned about leadership early on in my time here. I have to remind myself to listen to others, remain organized and stay passionate.

W&L is the place for me because it offers a supportive community of leaders, but also a liberal arts education. I have explored so many different classes because of the Foundation and Distribution Requirements. I have found subjects that I did not even know I was interested in before, like photography, which is now my major. It is surprising to some people that I am currently taking classes in painting, genetics and German, but that is the beauty of liberal arts. I am constantly learning and constantly challenged. Overall, Washington and Lee is a unique place of academic rigor and well-rounded individuals, which was why I chose W&L.

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