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Four Years at the Mount

Leadership in action

Following the leader

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(1/2017) So, the old year has been ushered out with the usual fanfare and as the New Year begins, we all look ahead to see what lies before us. With our resolutions set in mind, we follow in the footsteps of others to accomplish what the goals we have made for ourselves. We forget just how many leaders we have in our lives and just how they support us in every possible way. Whether they be lighting the way or cheering us on, we never take time to think about the impact they have on us.

There are multiple means of describing a "leader." In my own definition, a good leader is one who makes the path of others easier, even if the path they must take is dangerous and in unmarked territory. They are equal parts showman, servant, and bonding agent. They are a showman, for they must display to the world all that they have to offer and raise in the hearts of others the desire to accomplish any given task. Servant because they are duty bound to those they lead. And lastly, a bonding agent, for they must be able to join together people and point them towards a common goal. Above all of these, however, they are a teacher for they certainly teach others how to become the best possible version of themselves that they can be; they strive to enhance the lives of others, no matter the cost. I have never seen myself as much as a leader, to be perfectly honest, but it is for these reasons I have always admired them.

As a writer, I have many literary heroes and the marks that they have made in history are seen throughout the world. There is one particular woman I wish to discuss, Jane Austen. She is inarguably one of the most famous female writers, not only in her time, but in ours as well. She was a leader and a phenomenal writer whose literary light shines centuries after her passing. In her works, she outlined the social class and the inner workings and effects it had on society, while at the same time developing plots and characters that would encompass the way and manner in which people should behave. Her leading female characters radiate an inner sense of strength and independence that were ahead of their time.

Austen was ahead of her time as well, and while not famous by name in her own life, she would grow to become not only a recognizable name, but one that is highly revered. A lot has change from 1811, when her first novel Sense and Sensibility, was published not under her name, but instead "by a lady." However, her works are universally read and admired in todayís modern, fast-paced world. The reason for this is Austen understood the ways and workings of the human heart and mind and this knowledge helped her to write such situations and circumstances that could be understood by all, even people who lived a centuries later.

What is more was that she revolutionized the possibilities of the novel. Since the 18th and 19th centuries looked down on novels as a lesser form of artistic medium than poetry, when Jane Austin wrote her novels, she developed a style, while at the same time discovering new and different ways of expressing her story. Her female heroines were not the damsels or ornaments that were common in writing of that era, but they were human beings who saw their flaws and, if possible, corrected them. The realistic, human hearts that Austen gave to her characters made them nearly corporal to her readers. Even W.H. Auden, a well-known poet of the 20th century noted Austenís art in one of his poems A Letter to Lord Byron, "Then she's a novelist. I don't know whether/You will agree, but novel writing is/ A higher art than poetry altogether."

It is obvious why I admire Miss Austen as a leader in literature. However, it is easy to look back, see the leadership in others, and not notice it when it is staring you right in the face. There is another leader in my life that I look up to and strive to emulate; another woman who I have always seen as a pillar of strength, beauty, and intellect. She is, of course, my sister.

Older than myself by four years (give or take a few months), she has been a constant throughout my entire life. That is not to say that we always got along, as a matter of fact the opposite is true. When we were younger, we loathed each other; I was the annoying younger sister and she was the equally annoying, domineering, older sister. However, we grew up. She can still tend to be officious, but I have come to realize in these past few years just what she is. She is more than just my sister, she is who I would want to be like when I grow up. To me, she is this confident, childish grown-up who is full of laughter and intellect and kindness. She has taught me to laugh at myself and every day she shows me what one can make in this world if they will it. After all, that has always been her way. She has always been this force of nature that has made it seem so effortless, as if the world had just been waiting for her to make a move.

She has been, for a while now, telling me to write an article about her and so here it is. I know itís not a full thousand words about her (sorry, Katie), but it was the best way I knew how to write about her. Not only as a leader that she has always been to me, but in the same breath of one of my literary heroes. Life is full of people and the great ones (and unfortunately there are a very few of them) are the ones that help lead others to their greatness. These leaders that I have written about in a shamelessly biased manner, are just two in a world and a history full of people like them.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir