Leader (ˈliːdə): “The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” This is how Oxford Dictionary defines the term leader, but to me the word encompasses so much more in my day-to-day life.
To me, a leader is anyone that people can look up to, without that person having to command the attention. The leader is someone we choose to look up to because they are something we aspire to be like.
I’ve been very privileged in my life to know many strong and determined people whom I would consider to be leaders, and I’d like to spend time here explaining how, though they’re all incredibly different individuals, they are all leaders in their own respect and continue to inspire others around them.
My third grade teacher was the first person that truly inspired me to always complete tasks fully and without cutting corners. Picture, if you will, an adorable third grader doing a math test after learning multiplication for the first time. The concept seems simple enough, 3 groups of 4 all added together. Along came the test, and I answered quickly: 3×4 is 12, 5×6 is 30. Simple stuff. When the marks came back for the test I had gotten a C despite the fact that I had gotten every question right.
I went home crying to my mom, telling her how mean my teacher was for giving me such a bad grade and that it didn’t even make sense because I had gotten all the answers right. My mom told me to go in the next day and ask my teacher why I had gotten the C. So I did, and she told me it was because I hadn’t shown any of my work and that the test was to determine that we knew HOW to get the answer, it wasn’t just about getting the right answer. Mrs. Drummond was a leader to me because she taught me the importance of giving my all in everything that I do, something that has carried with me all my life and makes me the hard worker I am today.
When I got to middle school one of my peers became a leader by always standing up for the underdog and not allowing bullying to take place. Admittedly, lots of my peers would stand up to bullying when they saw it, but they would not actively work against it. My friend, Saba, along with her sister, came up with the term and initiative “Gossip Free Zone.” The initiative was a very basic idea, but sparked change not only in her own school.
Saba then brought her Gossip Free Zone to the summer camp where we met. The summer camp itself was quite inclusive, bringing together young people not only from Quebec City, Toronto and Ottawa, but also China and the Dominican Republic of Congo. The camp served children with special needs, always aiming to make them feel included. When Saba added the concept of a Gossip Free Zone to the camp, it somehow became an even more inclusive space which celebrated a peaceful ambience amongst the campers.
Lastly, I want to talk about my mother, who is not only a leader but my greatest inspiration in life. At work she is a leader, managing many student employees through the government program that hires university students.
When I was a child she sat on my school council and on the community council so that she always knew what was happening in the lives of my sister and me, and had a voice in case something went awry. She was a volunteer reader in my classes when I was in elementary school and volunteered to come on every field trip we had. For my friends she was always a safe adult they could speak to about any problems they had, and if they felt they couldn’t talk to their parents, she would help mediate conversations.
From the time I was a small child my Nan lived with me because she had poor health, and my mother looked after her, while raising two children and working full time, until the time she died in 2011. My mom managed to become even more of a leader in my eyes, not only dealing with the passing of her mom but also family drama as well. All the while, my mother kept her head held high, not stooping to the level of her siblings but rather forging on and living the way she has always done. Never have I looked up to someone more. If I ever become even half the woman my mom is, I will count myself a successful leader.