Being a leader
I wonder what it feels like to be a leader.
I’ve never been one, or at least I’ve never been given a responsibility big enough for me to be deemed one, unless minor group projects back in my grade school and high school days can be counted. Even then, I don’t think it was enough for me to know what it feels like to be a person of such privilege.
But there’s one thing I know: Whether one is a student leader, a youth leader, a political leader, or a world leader, though each one has unique responsibilities, the goals are similar. To lead. To influence and guide, to spearhead and direct, to take charge and take responsibility of the governed body, for the common good.
I wonder what it feels like to be a leader. It must be difficult, what with all the responsibilities one is expected to carry. It must be distressing to deal with all the pressure placed on one to achieve so many goals, and make a remarkable change. It must be exhausting to have to accomplish so many tasks in so little time. It must be binding to sacrifice a rather significant portion of one’s personal life to give way to one’s leadership commitments. It must be haunting to be blamed, and sometimes accused, if anything goes wrong, or fails, within the governed body. It must feel terrible to be hated by so many people, to be remembered only for the wrong things one has done. It must feel so disappointing to make progress, and have people barely notice it.
But surely, being a leader has its perks, doesn’t it? After all, one is always the most important person. One’s presence is always honored. Everyone pays close attention to everything one says. They regard one’s words highly, value one’s opinion, think one is the smartest. After all, one is famous. One’s name is almost always somewhere in the newspapers, if not on the front page. One’s activities are almost always broadcast. After all, one is given power and authority above others.
It must feel gratifying, what with everyone looking up to one. People regard one highly, and are obliged to act kindly and respectfully around one. One’s requests are instantly granted, one’s complaints urgently attended to, one’s orders followed at once. One might even have someone else at one’s beck and call, to minister to one’s needs at the snap of one’s fingers.
It must be overwhelming to have such immense power. One’s head must be brimming with countless ways to consume it. It must be tempting to use one’s power more than necessary, to use it at one’s disposal, to use it for self-serving purposes. It must be really tempting to use one’s power more than necessary, a little too often. Who can blame one? Because after all, not everyone gets the benefits one does. After all, one won’t have this chance forever, right? I mean, one’s privileges are bound to end, sooner or later. So one might as well seize the moment, and take advantage of it whenever one can.
And when one is using one’s power in the wrong ways, why worry, right? When there are countless of people one can depend on to clean up one’s mess? If one would like to, one can just pay someone else to turn the situation around, so one would still appear as the good guy to the public. And at the end of the day, it’ll all be OK, because after all, one is in control. And why would one care about the things that are destroyed just to give way to one’s demands, the people whose morals are stained just to help one cover up, the people whose lives are compromised just to get one what one wants? I mean, all that matters is oneself, right? And the rest don’t, because after all, one is the most important person.
I wonder what it feels like to be a leader. I wonder what it’s like to be put in situations where one has to choose between oneself and the people one is supposedly serving. I wonder what it’s like to be put in a position with so much fame, power, and prestige, a position that offers one so much that one tends to forget why one is there in the first place. I wonder how difficult it is to resist being blinded by greed. Because one has to be. Otherwise, everything that one is meant to build can perish before one. And maybe even one can perish, too.
But sometimes one doesn’t, and one gets away with the wrong things one does, and it’s not fair. Because justice isn’t served right, and the people who deserve it don’t get it, all because of the greed that one lets oneself fall into. I wonder what it feels like, for one to see so many people suffering, just so one can get things to go one’s way. I wonder if it ever haunts one when one sleeps at night, even a little bit. I wonder if one’s conscience eats at one, at all.
Does it not occur to one that the very people who put their trust on one are the very people one has betrayed? Is it too late for one to remember the very reason one is given this privilege? Is it too late for one to realize the things one has done wrong, and make them right again?
Because I’m sure one would want to. Because although I’ve never been one, I’m pretty sure that being a leader, a good leader, has its perks. After all, wouldn’t it make one happy to see the people one serves, satisfied by one’s work? Wouldn’t it please one to see one’s name in the papers, hear one’s name on TV, because of the good things one has done? Wouldn’t it delight one to hear good things about one coming out of people’s mouths? And if they don’t notice, then that’s OK, because at the very least, one served, and one aimed to make things better for them. Besides, it shouldn’t matter whether or not one hears them talk good of one, because one supposedly became a leader with the goal of making a positive change, and not really to hear that one made the change.
I wonder what it feels like to be a leader, to have the power to change the world for the better. I wonder what it’s like, to be capable of improving people’s lives, and inspiring them to make a change, too. One’s head must be brimming with ideas to make everything better for them. One must be so motivated to work, what with the many good things waiting at the end of one’s efforts. One must be aching to work toward positive change every time. Because not everyone has the opportunity one does, and one doesn’t have this chance forever. So might as well seize the moment, and make the most of it as best as one can.
What an immense amount of sacrifice one has to make, to be able to succeed. But never mind that, because what matters is that the people one serves, and even the generations after them, enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. Because after all, privilege comes with a specific obligation. Because after all, when one is a leader, one puts oneself before others, but at the same time, one puts others before oneself, too.
Taffy C. Salazar, 19, is a biology sophomore at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
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