An Unusually Personal Column

Sophia Maltese, Managing Editor

In my Professional Communication class, we discussed the qualities of famously loved and effective leaders, one of which was high self-esteem. Typically, leaders are comfortable with themselves and their decisions. They know where they stand and they stand there, to quote Fr. Daniel Berrigan.

As a burgeoning leader, my self-esteem is not high. Honestly, I have found that only the ignorant are fully confident. Those who truly understand that they know nothing, that the world is rich with knowledge, could not believe that they have answers.

Granted, there are some things I know. I know that you do not use an Oxford comma in AP style. I know that my favorite color is green. I know that I don’t know much of anything.

Thus, being a confident leader is difficult. I constantly question my choices. I heavily weigh every option and attempt to choose the one I believe is objectively the best; however, this leads me to an entirely different issue — what does “best” mean? Is there an objectively “best” decision? Is the quality of a decision determined by its consequences or precedent or my personal standards? Where does my judgement come from?

And I’m back to my spiral, circling like water down a drain to the inevitable contemplation of the nature of “goodness.”

So you see, how could I possibly be confident? I cannot be confident when I do not even understand what I am being confident in.

Still, I type the stories. I mark up pages in red, smeared ink. I throw open the newsroom door and offer myself as a smiling and available resource to anyone who has questions regarding the newspaper.

The closest I can get to high self-esteem is trusting in the instincts that move me and the words that come to my mind as I write this soliloquy.

Trusting my instincts has yielded fairly decent results. I have pursued stories when I believed in them, and I have had the foresight to recommend not publishing specific articles.

Yet, I am still learning the intricacies of the word “leadership.” To many of my co-workers, I appear to be a competent and driven person. This perception leads them to seek my guidance or support, which I gladly provide. 

In this way, I can clearly understand the benefits of having a confident leader. Others admire and trust them. The burden of being viewed in this way, however, is that people start to rely on you, and you still believe you are totally unqualified to answer their questions.

So, to those of you wondering how I act as a leader: I never stop trying. I am aware of how little I know. I understand that I am imperfect, that I make mistakes, so I try to seek the appropriate guidance when faced with difficult decisions.

I doubt I will ever establish what “good” is, and I do not think that anyone will. Until we parse out the secrets of the universe, I’ll keep trying my best to trust my instinctive reactions, weigh my options and develop confidence in myself and the wisdom that lies therein.