Webster defines a leader as a person or thing that leads; a guiding or directing head. I refer to a leader as not only a person who has followers, but also as someone who has the ability to follow or be influenced by his/her followers. Meaning, a leader must not be self-reliant and allow room for growth and influence from other sources. Over the years, I have allowed my development as a leader to be shaped by those around me. More specifically, since my time at SCAD.
One of the ways in which SCAD has affected my leadership development is through the discussion boards. I found that when there were subjects that I may have been ignorant of or not well-versed in, reading the unit content and discussion boards helped to bring me more clarity. The last notable thing that I read was a discussion board post my a fellow 702 student, Michelle Wolfarth. In a discussion about Rob Forbes’ Ways of Seeing, she stated:
“We walk around and dismiss our surroundings as annoying, such as the crowded restaurant patio, or messy like the construction sites, but if we pause for a second and take the time to find the visual beauty in these situations, can we learn to appreciate them beyond being something that is industrial or social; can we then consider them as art?”
In the same sense, as leader, if we pause for a second and see what our followers and our surroundings have to offer, we learn to appreciate them beyond what we initially perceived them as. Several times, I have been in a position where the leader viewed the opinions of his/her followers as trivial and unwelcome. They displayed a sense of tyranny, so to speak. This practice created discord and negativity. In my experience as a leader, I have found that one of the most important characteristics of a leader is being able to understand the people whom you are leading. How can you do that if you do not take a moment to observe?
I feel that as a leader, it is important to not become so self-reliant and -indulged, and take a moment to observe and allow your followers and other outside elements to positively influence you. This philosophy applies to not only a leader, but also as a person in general. Often times our frustrations, stresses and uncertainties come from simply not paying attention. This applies to graphic design in that it is impossible to design for a society and culture that we are unaware of and do not take the time to research and observe properly. In essence, becoming more observant and open can only benefit us as leaders, designers, and people.
GRDS 702: Methodological Practice; Discussion Boards; Michelle Wolfarth-Ways of Seeing