Award-winning leader shares tips for success Mary Morrison identifies the qualities necessary in an effective leader By Morgan Ilaw
Mary Morrison, director of the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement at Elon University, started thinking of herself as a leader when she was in the fifth grade. As the keynote speaker for the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society initiation at Elon University, Morrison challenged the definition of leadership and shared her advice on how to become an effective leader. Morrison was asked to speak at the ODK initiation after being awarded the 2011 Civic Engagement Professional of the Year Award. This award acknowledges one staff member at a North Carolina Campus Compact campus every year for civic and service-learning within the college community. ODK recognizes outstanding individuals who have delivered a high standard of leadership in the college community and maintained high academic averages. It also encourages these individuals to aspire to higher successes, while inspiring members of the faculty and student body to bond as official ODK members. Photo courtesy of Elon University
Morrison said she first became a leader when she was elected president of her fifth grade class. Back then, Morrison said she was unable to recognize one of the most important leaders in her life—her mother. Her mother had the ability to bring people together, while also being one who would “delegate responsibility and offer support,” Morrison said. Secondly, Morrison highlighted three characteristics necessary in being a successful leader. The first quality is being able to perform your best in every situation. You must achieve your greatest potential, but maintain balance. She explained to the audience, “bloom wherever you are planted.” Great leaders also have integrity and authenticity off and on the job, Morrison said. She urged for leaders to know themselves, be themselves and act in a manner that is respected and valued. The audience was then challenged to treat each other with respect and kindness. Finally, Morrison said good leaders are able to say “no.” “I’d rather have an honest no, than a dishonest yes,” she said. Morrison requested one final task; “surround yourself with people you admire,” she said. Morrison works with over 100 student leaders at the Kernodle Center in Moseley who initiate programs like the Special Olympics, Elon Service Day, lunch buddies and tutoring.