My three year old son, Ace, loves to help out with his little sister, Clarke. To the detriment of my toes, he especially loves to help push Clarke in her stroller. He stands behind her stroller, which is twice as tall as he is, and uses all of his strength to push her forward. Although he’s not directly in front of her, he is pushing and leading her in the right direction.
Typically when people think of a leader they think of the one in front of the crowd, but I’ve found that the most effective leaders are those that lead from behind. The people that have had the greatest influence in my life have been those that have stood behind me and pushed me in the right direction. They unselfishly used their strength to push my weight when I felt like I couldn’t go any further. Each push led has led me to where I am now.
I think its safe to say that most of us came to law school with hopes of helping others and making a difference, among other things. However, it’s so easy for the purity of that purpose to be stained as we face the competitive nature of the job market and the competitive nature of law school in general. This weekend I was reminded of my motivation for attending law school as I participated in the Sophia’s Heart Legal Clinic. Sophia’s Heart is a transitional shelter for families in crisis and helps them get back on their feet, secure housing, and resolve personal, financial, and employment impediments. I complained that morning as I woke up; and as I drove over I was having a pity party about the four loads of laundry and reading I had to do that weekend. As I heard their stories, every petty complaint that I had became so small. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to have such a rewarding experience. I left feeling inspired with renewed since of purpose. I’m looking forward to paying it forward, and leading from behind.
Sometimes being in law school is like being in a beauty pageant. Each contestant is a hometown hero and leader in their respective states. Each one has some sort of philanthropic platform or goal. Each contestant competes for one crown, and suddenly what was once about helping others, is reduced to a line on their resume. You’re now involved in more organizations and leadership positions than you can count in an effort to “stand out” from the crowd. On paper you’re an outstanding leader. You’ve become the front runner among your peers. But can you really call yourself a leader if your motivation is more about you than the people you seek to serve?