Students engage in leadership seminar

Presenting a different kind of seminar, a former Oregon state representative helped Linfield students discover what it means to be a true leader. A small group showed up to listen to Jefferson Smith speak March 14 in Riley Hall, 201, expecting a lecture.

But Smith told everyone he didn’t want to do one of his speeches because they can easily be found on the Internet. He was more interested in getting to know the students in the audience.

“It’s way cooler to do something that we can’t replace,” Smith said. He wanted to focus on answering questions and creating a dialogue.

He asked members of the group to think of traits that belong to a great leader. Students came up with characteristics like persistence, innovation, cooperation and responsibility. Smith suggested books and further resources that related to almost every trait written on the whiteboard.

Smith said leaders don’t necessarily need to be charismatic, but rather should embody discipline and selflessness.

“I don’t think someone who’s magnetic or loud is necessarily a worse or better leader. Someone who is loud and obnoxious, or maybe shy and reserved, can make a tremendous leader.”

Smith then asked everyone to think of an example that linked to one of the leadership traits. Sophomore Ian Franceschi gave the example of Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, as a great leader, which gave the group a good laugh.

“He was a slave for the longest time to the Turkish Empire. He ended up coming out of the woodworks from his slavery and coming back to his people with ideas that were used within the Turkish and Mongolian armies. He brought those ideas back and ended  up becoming one of the most feared men, and leader-oriented men in all of Europe in his day,” Franceschi said. “The lesson is, I would say he was innovative.”

Smith connected this example to the different eras of leadership in the world.

“For centuries, rule of the world was based on control of the best weaponry. I think the rule of the world today is dictated by access to the control of capital. The question is what the next era of history is controlled by, I think by ideas,” Smith said, giving his “dumb” interpretation of the arc of history.

Then he asked students to brainstorm the hard parts of being a leader, the things that most people would rather avoid. Asking for help, maintaining support, dealing with conflict and staying motivated were a few ideas that students came up with.

With regard to motivation, he advised everyone to “never, ever, give up,” as Winston Churchill once said in a speech.

Smith gave advice for what he could, but said that for some, he had no answers. He admitted that he is actively working on being able to deal with the hard parts, such as losing, criticism or failure.

Smith ended his presentation by saying that the most important thing a leader can do is develop other leaders. To lead is to empower, he said.

Kelsey Sutton/Managing editor

Kelsey Sutton can be reached at