Everyone Leads

3 Apr

On March 20th at the historic Stanley Hotel, Eagle Rock Schol staff and students had the privilege to hear the CEO of Public Allies ,Paul Schmitz, talk about his new book Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up. This book encapsulates the Public Allies view of leadership: that everyone, despite education, race, or other distinctions, has the capacity to become leaders of their community. As Paul told the Eagle Rock community in his talk: leadership is an action that everyone can take. What stuck out most in his speech was the stories of former Public Allies fellows and their transformation into leaders. One former Milwaukee Ally, Peter Hoeffel, went from working in a deli shop to discovering a passion for people with disabilities, and then went on to lead the Milwaukee chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health. Another former fellow, Bizunesh Talbot-Scott applied to Public allies when she was an 18-year-old single mom with a two year-old. She worked at the Youth Leadership Academy in Milwaukee and later got a law degree from the University of Michigan, and later worked on President Obama’s transition team. As quoted in the book, she states “I was a smart girl who had no idea of my potential before Public Allies.”

Paul speaking to Eagle Rock students.Photo taken by Public Allies fellow Seth Wyncott.

When telling Peter’s story, Paul said to the students, “no one looked at the guy in a deli shop and thought of a leader.” This was really important for our students to hear. In our society, the leadership paradigm is based on the notion that we need heroes and saviors that graduated from Ivy League schools or who have long resume of accomplishments. The Public Allies program breaks this notion by investing in people who are committed to making a change in their community, regardless of background and so-called “prestige.”

Students listening to Paul's speech, photo taken by Public Allies fellow Seth Wyncott.

It is hard for many students at Eagle Rock to envision themselves as leaders, because similar to what Paul said, many people do not look at the teenager with a difficult background and think of a future leader. However, at Eagle Rock, we do just that. We focus on building individual integrity, citizenship, ethics, leadership for justice, artistic expression, spirit, and physical health within each student. Paul’s message, that everyone can lead, fit right in with the philosophy of Eagle Rock School.

I interviewed two students, Morgan Dolak and Steven Leger, about their thoughts and reactions to Paul’s talk. Their responses are below.

Morgan Dolak

Me: Paul shared that when he was younger, many people looked at him and they did not see a leader. Have you always seen yourself as a leader?

Morgan: Not before Eagle Rock, I didn’t know being leader was so important before Eagle Rock… it was the first time I had ever been introduced to being a leader…

Me: What made you changed your mind besides being introduced to it, did someone change your mind?

Morgan:  I think when I met Jon Anderson [a teacher at Eagle Rock] and I took his class called: “Be a Leader”. I thought this was awesome, I don’t really have any set leadership opportunities in the community, but I can make my own. He said if you’re going to try and lead you need to be confident in yourself, which is something I wasn’t…I’m still building my self-confidence in order to be a more effective leader,him and Jesse [another Eagle Rock teacher] really encourage me and help me…

Steven Leger

Me: Did you know what Public Allies was before Paul spoke about it?

Steven: I had heard about it, but I never thought about what it could mean to me.

Me: What is your understanding of it now?

Steven:  The name makes a lot of sense…but I think it went a little deeper for me when I started thinking about how people start engaging in the community from all over the world…I can’t say I have a total  in-depth understanding of how Public Allies works. But I definitely have enough of understanding to be interested in doing something like that…

Me: What do you think of his concept everyone can lead?

Steven: I started reading the book … and it’s all these different stories about how people from small towns that start of working in a retail shops and then do monumental things in their communities, its such a great idea…

Me: Is this a new leadership concept to you?

Steven: Definitely

Me: How had you thought about leadership before that?

Steven: When I thought everyone leads I thought about the saying “too many chiefs and not enough Indians…” so when everyone is leading it can be a mess, but he [Paul] really broke it down…he said there are never too many leaders, even if everyone is leading and that made sense to me…

Me: Do you see this type of leadership as something you will try at Eagle Rock?

Steven:Yea. My dad has told me that I am a leader, and I really like this idea, and I never really thought about how I lead people. And I never really considered that leading by example works better than leading by dictatorship…

After reading this post, think about your own definition of leadership. Have you always treated others like they had the capacity to lead? Strong communities need a community of leaders.

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2 Responses to “Everyone Leads”

  1. Dara May 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    This was a wonderful post! You can tell that the students were really listening and starting to play with the idea of leadership and what it means to be a leader. Thanks for sharing their thoughts with us!

  2. morgan dolak May 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    oh heyyy! im morgan dolak! thats me! thanks steph youre aweesome

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