The Duck Theory


As part of the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA), I have weekly one-on-one meetings with my advisor. After we get through all of our agenda items, we usually delve into a pop culture whirlwind of the latest in great music and what happened on the latest episode of Sunday night programming on HBO (Seriously, Sundays on HBO are spectacular.) However, we set those aside to talk shop about leadership. So let’s jump right into what Ryan O’Connell had to say about his experience leading students and what qualities make a good leader.
A good leader according to Ryan has to have two qualities, being reliable and able to instill confidence into people. A leader is reliable in the sense that they always have the best interest in mind, making sure each team member is contributing to their fullest potential. To do that, they have to take actions to show they care. Ryan recalled a story in which he was working at an event in San Francisco on top of scaffolding at 9pm, but there was a person right there with him… the head of the company he worked for. He went on to explain how some of the best bosses he’s had all lead by example, whereas you lose respect for someone who is a “stand and pointer” ordering people around.
url“A leader is like duck.” When Ryan had said this, I questioned his theory at first but it rang true. Imagine a duck on a pond, you can see it gliding along the water with grace. However, hidden to us underneath the water the duck’s feet are paddling like mad. Leaders are like the duck in that they don’t let people see the legs. If a leader shows that they’re worried, it doesn’t do anyone good because it’ll trickle down. If you show that you’re calm and confident, no matter the situation, everyone else will be. Especially in RUPA and with an events perspective, things can get crazy quickly. You have to be able to trust your leaders that they’re making right decisions.
Ryan applies these qualities whenever we’re at a RUPA event. At Scarvest, Ryan was right there with us shucking hay bales around and the week of the Before I Die wall, was helping us lug them inside and out each day. A leader can’t sit back and order people around, they have to be alongside their followers and be a good communicator of believing in what they do. This is why not only Ryan is a great guy, but a great leader.
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