When I was a freshman, one student locked our classrooms to force other students to join the protest demanding greater subsidy for education.

I didn’t participate in the rally, because though I believe in the call for a greater subsidy, I also believe that attending my class will also be of service to the Filipinos. After all, our taxes are being used for my education (I studied in UP, a state university). I wanted to be part of the solution through other ways.

Fifteen years later, the things that I learned as a college student still resonate with me. Here are some of those timeless principles that are now guiding me as I serve the people I am leading today.

Believe the vision God gave you.

In the book of Nehemiah, we find someone who had a burning desire to see change and a willing heart to build his nation. Fueled by his vision to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem which was the symbol of God’s strength and protection for His people, Nehemiah risked death and rejection by asking a king for help. He shared the vision to others who were like-minded, and with his bare hands, he did the work that needed to be done. That’s how the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt.

In the same way, back in college, we were envisioning a campus that upheld godly principles. This vision led me to run for student council. Along with those who share this same vision, we felt compelled to serve the campus by responding to the students’ needs.

The problem, however, was that we had no connections, and we did not know how to go about some processes. Also, I was a shy person and dreaded to speak in front of crowds. But we knew that we had to conquer those fears and insecurities and do what we were called to do.

So, we made our own party list with integrity, servant leadership, and excellence as our core values. We ran in the student council elections and eventually won. This was where we started.

Eventually, we got to see the vision happening before our very eyes—having a campus that upholds godly principles.

What do you see happening in your school? Are you willing to risk rejection and face challenges to see God’s vision and purpose fulfilled? Are you willing to act on that vision?

Serve genuinely.

Even before we started a party and ran for office, we would help the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) conduct leadership training seminars for student organizations and Power Memory training for freshmen. We also made ourselves available to the OSA for whatever assistance they needed. There was no other agenda but to help students grow and flourish.

Out of a heart to serve, a leader can also flourish in knowledge and skill. Leaders are learners. Awareness of the issues in our campus and in our nation is vital if we want to lead. We can serve better when we know how to serve them.

Leadership starts with the heart to serve, with or without a position. If you desire to serve, serve even before you are in position. If you are put in a position of leadership, whether by election or appointment, you get the opportunity to serve on a larger scale. But even if you aren’t given a title or position, serve. The student council is not the only way you can serve.

Persevere in opposition and trials.

In leadership, criticism is inevitable, but how we respond to it is a choice.

Some of the criticism we receive are constructive; others just aim to drag us down. Let us use them to grow and lead better. We want to be a leader who listens not only to what we want to hear, but also to those who disagree with us. Having people in our lives who can help us process and filter criticism will surely help us identify which ones are attacks and which ones are useful.

There will be times when we need to exercise humility because we value relationships more than our pride.

During my time as chairperson of the student council, we had a misunderstanding with one of the major organizations in the university. We decided to apologize in their general assembly. It was an intense moment but when they realized our sincerity and desire to reconcile, they forgave us and became one of our biggest supporters.

Who said that leadership is going to be a walk in the park anyway? Face criticism, learn and grow from them. The way to grow in leadership is to face, endure, and learn from these challenges. Remind yourself of our value and identity in God. Stay connected with people who will remind you why you are in your position in the first place.

Whether you are an aspiring leader or have been holding a post for quite some time now, I want to remind you that Jesus called us to be salt and light to the world. Author and pastor John Stott put it this way:

God intends us to penetrate the world. Christian salt has no business to remain snuggly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it from going bad. And when society goes bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?

So let us lead in any way we can, even if it means stepping out of our comfort zone. Remember that we can be salt and light to the world not because of our own ability, but because God is with us.

Ultimately, servant leadership is God’s way to send us out into the world so that we can demonstrate God’s love for His people.

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. . . . As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

(John 17:14,18)

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