If you would like to submit an article, a letter to the editor, or have a subject that you would like me to approach next, email me at

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Being The Most Popular Kid In Class Doesn't Work Forever


I was asked to share this story from the NY Times with you guys. The source article can be found here. The article shares the name with my post title and was written by Dr. Christopher Howard, President of Hampden-Sydney College. It was published by the "NY Times inCollege In Leadership" column.

        I can recall vividly the seventh-grade student council
competition. My social studies teacher dutifully scanned the
classroom for volunteers, exhorting at least one of us to run for
office. Never shy to voice my opinion, it was not too difficult
for me to accept her charge. “Howie for Student Council”
posters joined similarly decorated signs for candidates vying
for a coveted position as a representative of the people. More
importantly, time drew nearer and nearer to the day when each
candidate was expected to give their campaign speech to students
waiting anxiously with open ears and closed minds.
        After the fifth candidate finished, it was my turn to speak.
I was passionate, energetic, and interested in helping my fellow
students; however, my talk was not terribly remarkable. But
regardless of my oratory skills, I had something every kid needed
to win an election: popularity. Like most other young people that
age, I equated popularity with leadership. Not much changed
during my successful runs for office through high school and
even college, but I eventually arrived at positions in the military,
Corporate America, non-profits, and higher education where,
by definition, making unpopular decisions represented effective
leadership. The desire to be popular had somehow become a
        As the president of Hampden-Sydney College, I am impressed
each day by young people who figuratively and literally want to
change the world. Through their work with clubs, organizations,
and even their very own 501(c)(3) corporations housed both
on and off campus, these young men work diligently for a
greater good, leading as best they know how. They support
popular causes and, not too unlike my seventh-grade student
council campaign, they remain generally well-liked by all they
encounter. But I think it is important to caution this at times
overly-confident generation, as well as the reader, that leadership
is not a popularity contest. Moreover, those of us who teach and
develop future leaders must educate these apt pupils on what is
just around the corner in their often peripatetic lives.
       Professor Ronald Heifetz of the John F. Kennedy School of
Government at Harvard University often talks about leadership
being a dangerous place. It is even more so for young people
if they transition to leadership roles unprepared mentally,
emotionally, spiritually, and even physically for the daunting
tasks at hand. As old-fashioned as it may sound, we need
to provide opportunities for emerging leaders to develop
toughness—or what Dr. Angela Duckworth from the University
of Pennsylvania calls GRIT—if they are to survive and thrive in
the 21st century.
        I am not arguing for a Dickensian grey world consisting
of ritualistic slaps on the wrist, just because. However, I am
reminding scholars and practitioners of leadership education
alike to recall that no matter how elegant an idea may be, it
often takes an individual with the courage to endure some
degree of deprivation to see it through to the end.
Perhaps the best way of achieving this goal is to intentionally
link character education to leadership development, with the
appropriate crucible experiences incorporated along the way.
Good examples include individuals like Bob McDonald, CEO
of Proctor & Gamble, and Colonel Mark Hyatt, Executive
Director of the Foundation for Character Development, who
sponsor important initiatives that assist with positive character
        The military calls it the “loneliness of command,” while
others, describing the quintessential leadership role, the
American Presidency, describe it as “the glorious burden.”
Whichever title one chooses, leadership is not a seventh-grade
student council election. We must keep this precept in mind
when developing the next generation of leaders.

Now, I don't usually just post things like this without commenting on them, and I'm certainly not going to start now. I'm not sure why the anonymous reader asked me to share this article written by Dr. Christopher Howard. It's a nice piece, though. I understand where Dr. Howard is coming from, though I was never one to run for student leadership positions. I hated the institution of "class presidents" in High School because it was always the dumb popular jocks that won. (I'm not saying all popular people are dumb, that all jocks are dumb, or that all jocks are popular, or anything of that nature. That's just kinda how it turned out at my school).

That being said, I can't help but notice that there is still a fair bit of that going on in college. Now, I'm sure the students elected to positions this year at HSC will do fine, but they weren't necessarily the ones I voted for. I did however, notice that when I asked people who they were voting for and why, a disappointingly common response was "I just think he's cool." Another: "He's my friend. I have to vote for him!" And, of course, my favorite: "Well I'm not going to vote for someone who has no chance of winning. . ."

The student leaders that end up being elected to position at Hampden-Sydney are usually fairly competent, and I have very few negative things to say about any of them. I do find it disconcerting that I hear comments like those around election times. It is that exact sort of sentiment that kept me from running for the office of President for this past year. I didn't think there was any chance of winning, and I didn't really see the point, so I stuck to my academics, instead. I'm not at school to lead, anyway.

Anyway, that's pretty much all I have to say on this article. Do you guys have anything you would like to say? Responses? Leave a comment, please, and if you have any stories of your own to share, pelase email me at!

--Your Editor.

1 comment:

  1. They are forcing Chief Ghee out of his job:

    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    In the past several years, there have been increasing demands and expectations placed on safety, security, emergency management, and police functions at Hampden-Sydney College. Current levels of harmful behaviors within our campus community and potential threats from outside our community are cause for concern. Given the changing environment that is affecting H-SC—as well as all colleges and universities across the nation—it is time to significantly enhance safety, security, and emergency management structures, procedures, policies, and operations for the welfare of students, faculty, residents, and staff.

    Therefore, the H-SC Department of Security and Police is being restructured.

    The primary change is the hiring of a Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police. This person will be the College’s chief law enforcement officer and be responsible for developing and implementing emergency preparedness, planning, coordination, and management programs. Chief Jeff Gee will continue to serve as Chief of Police until the new director is hired at which time he will serve as Assistant Chief of Police.

    In addition, Mr. Chuck Ironmonger, Fire Safety Supervisor, will add Emergency Coordinator to his slate of responsibilities and report to the Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police.

    With these changes, I am confident that our Police Department will continue to ensure the safety and security of our community and long-term success of the College.

    Dale Jones
    Dale Jones, Ph.D.
    Vice President for Strategy, Administration, and Board Affairs
    Hampden-Sydney College
    Office: 434-223-6116
    Cell: 434-414-0847

    Here is the add for his replacement:

    Hampden-Sydney College Job Openings

    Those interested may apply by the deadline below. Please contact the Human Resources Department for more information.

    Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police

    Individual will be responsible for ensuring a safe and secure environment for the College, its students, faculty, staff and visitors. He/she will lead, manage, and supervise police officers, the emergency management coordinator, and the fire safety supervisor in the Department of Security and Police. Develop and implement comprehensive and integrated strategies for crime and accident prevention. Develop innovative programs to enhance community safety. Develop and implement emergency preparedness, planning, coordination, notification, and management programs. Prepare appropriate manuals/handbooks/brochures. Ensure website content is maintained with current and accurate information. Interface with local, state, and federal agencies.

    Bachelor’s degree, preferably in Criminal Justice, Criminology, or a related field required; Master's degree is desirable; minimum of 5-8 years of progressively responsible experience in law enforcement and public safety and security as a sworn police officer certified by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services or equivalent agency from another state is required. Knowledge and understanding of the principles of emergency preparedness, planning, coordination, and management; demonstrated leadership and management skills, considerable knowledge of state and federal law are required; experience in higher education law enforcement is desirable; completion of a national law enforcement management training program, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Academy, is desirable; or equivalent combination of education and experience.

    Review of applications will begin July 15, 2013 and continue until the position is filled.

    Grade 30, Exempt
    Range $57,528 - $86,292

    Maybe all the students should apply for his job in protest?