Redefining Leadership


Spencer Pelfrey, GA for Leadership Programs

When you think of leadership, what comes to your mind first? Is it certain traits that you think a leader must possess? Is it a specific leader that is influential in your life or influential to those around them? Maybe it’s a pioneer, a visionary, or a revolutionary.

Leadership means different things to different people. For some, it’s simply a title. For others, it’s a collection of experiences where tasks were accomplished or problems properly navigated. It could be those who may not have formal leadership titles at all. These are individuals who have proven to be agents of change through their creative solutions, adaptation to change and the ability to seize opportunities.

Nearly every job or application we fill out has that ridiculously vague question about leadership. “Please explain a time where you exemplified leadership.” What does that even mean? I sit there trying to decide if I should write about how I changed a friend’s experience with supportive words or how I was able to change an event to better suit its mission or maybe the time I became a pioneer and ate a hot dog in a Twinkie covered in Cheez-whiz. I don’t have a specific suggestion as to how to answer this type of question other than recognizing a time where you felt as though you made yourself proud in both the way you acted and how it positively affected your environment.

It seems as though when we are put in those situations, we attempt to change our own definition of leadership to fit the definition of the institution, company, or whatever the popular opinion is. We are compromising our own leadership and going against the very thing that we’re attempting to prove.

The beauty of leadership is there is no specific definition. Therefore it can’t be redefined, just recognized and attained.

– Spencer Pelfrey,Graduate Assistant

p.s. Here are some wonderful TED Talks about differing views of leadership:

Drew Dudley’s “Everyday Leadership” (5 mins). Drew tells a story of how the little things can mean the most to people and how we can be exhibiting leadership without even knowing it.

Simon Sinek’s  “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” (10 mins). Simon explains his theory that good leaders cultivate a comfortable environment and, in turn, workers are more satisfied and productive.


About Spencer: Spencer is a current William and Mary student in the School of Education and pursuing his M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration through the Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership program.  He is a graduate of James Madison University, where he had experience working in Admissions, Alumni Relations, and Community Service Learning, and Orientation.

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