Student leaders must bust out of the complacent culture on campus

Striving to be elite in OilerNation

By Sarah Stubbs

“People aren’t committed to being elite today.”

These were some of the opening words of Tim Kight, CEO and football coach for The Ohio State University, in his presentation about leadership and what it takes to create and sustain an elite culture. Kight was one of the speakers at the Ohio Newspaper Association conference I attended last week.

As a student leader I know first-hand what it’s like to deal with people who aren’t always reliable or who might not always give 100 percent. I also know that I’m not alone in this experience, a handful of my best friends are student leaders, too.

It’s frustrating – but it’s life and it’s a part of any leadership role. I constantly have to remind myself that I cannot force people to care or be as excited as I am about some of the things I’m involved with.

So, when Kight opened up with that line – which I initially thought was a little harsh – my ears perked up and I quietly agreed. I don’t think people (the majority of people, at least) are committed to being elite today.

Kight went on to say other one-liners that held some truth: “Talent is a gift. Toughness is a choice,” and “We are fragile people, and that won’t work.” Although I would never think to put these concepts so bluntly, I agree 100 percent. I find that a lot of my peers in this millennial generation simply want to do the bare minimum. College students, even the ones that get straight-A’s, aren’t going above and beyond if they don’t have to.

Why should we go above and beyond, though? For what? It’s like when you’re in class and your professor is explaining all of the steps in a new assignment or project, you’re thinking: “OK, so that’s what I should do. What do I have to do to pass this class?”

We live in a culture of complacency.

I don’t think this is because no one wants to stand out as the one who works the hardest or the one who cares the most, I think it’s simply because we just don’t want to be bothered.

We are afraid of being uncomfortable. Change is hard and as Kight put it, “emotionally uncomfortable.” No one wants to be discomforted or inconvenienced. But, without discomfort we become complacent. If you’re not uncomfortable – ever – you’re not growing. And isn’t college, life, all about growth? Are we truly striving for personal and intellectual growth during our time in OilerNation? Or are we simply trying to add lines to our resumes and walk through the arch with that very expensive piece of paper in our hands?

During the presentation, Kight started some discussions about how we could beat this culture of complacency in our news rooms. He brought up mission statements and how most companies or organizations spend more time deciding which font to put their mission statements in than they do discussing them or living them.

At the Pulse, we’ve been talking about coming up with a mission statement for the past year or so. My adviser suggested that we write one so we can put it on our website and Pulse staffers would have something concrete to remind them why they contribute to the Pulse and what the Pulse stands for. I loved this idea as soon as I heard it, and have had it on my agenda to discuss with the Pulse team on several different occasions, but I feel like I can never seem to get enough people to the meetings in the first place. It never seems to be the right time.

According to Kight, a mission statement shouldn’t just be on a wall or website, it should be in your heart and something you can discuss freely. When you know your mission, your purpose, you’re going to be more willing to experience discomfort because you know that it’s purposeful. You know that uncomfortable feeling will only grow you and your team.

A lot of what Kight said that morning struck a chord with me. I introduced myself to him after his presentation and shared with him a couple concerns I have in my leadership position as editor of the Pulse. He pointed out to me that you can’t build a culture you don’t talk about. He also said organizational change starts with personal change.

I realized that I never started that discussion about a mission statement because I knew it would be uncomfortable.

It’s easy for me to say, “Well, no one is here or even cares so why should we discuss it?” It’s easy for me, and anyone, to place blame, complain, and defend your tried and true ways. It’s easy to stick with your routine, even when it’s not giving you the results you want.

I’ve realized that I’m fortunate to have the leadership positions that I have. I don’t take them for granted, but I will admit that sometimes I am just going through the motions and am putting things off that I think are vital to the success of my team – behavior that I don’t tolerate.

I learned last week that you don’t get the culture you proclaim, you get the culture you build.

I hope that I can build a passionate, discipline-driven culture with the Pulse and all of the other student groups and organizations I’m in. I don’t want to believe that my generation is complacent and doesn’t strive to be elite. We’re better than that. I’m better than that.

Looking forward, I won’t tolerate behavior from others that is resistant, impulsive, or on auto-pilot. I can only say this because I don’t tolerate that behavior for myself, either.

We will never know success or how great we can be if we don’t push the envelope and try to go above and beyond. Why settle for mediocre when we know we can be great?

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