Harvard Leader of the Week

James Ho

Harvard Leader of the Week is a new initiative from the Harvard Leadership Magazine that highlights an effective leader on campus each week.

Why did you get involved with the Leadership Institute at Harvard College (LIHC)?
Contrary to popular belief, I actually didn’t apply to LIHC at first for the leadership aspect of the organization. At an info session freshman fall, I met a committee chair that I got along with and could really see myself working with him. At the time, I was looking to be part of an organization that they can contribute to, and I was lucky enough to be interviewed and offered a spot on the committee. It wasn’t until I was in a more senior role in the organization that I was faced with leadership challenges and really began to build up my view on what makes an effective leader.

What’s your biggest goal for improving LIHC?
I think community is an aspect that LIHC can really strive to improve. With the committee structure, often times it’s very easy to lose sight that one is part of a larger organization. In fact, building community through various organizational wide events such as retreats and full clubs is one of my top priorities during my term, and I think it makes the LIHC experience much more rewarding.

What has been your favorite experience at Harvard so far?
Among my favorite experiences has been teaching the Youth Lead the Change (YLC) Conferences in Boston and Myanmar. YLC is one of the committees within LIHC that runs 5-day high school leadership conferences internationally, and inspires students to create social change within their communities. The experience has been very eye opening for me, and has allowed me to gain a lot of perspective on challenging social issues, as well as push myself to reflect on how I define leadership and what my important values are.

Who do you model yourself after as a leader?
This is a tough question. I think the popular response here is to go with someone famous that has made a positive impact on the world. However I don’t think that’s actually very informative since very rarely does one get to see their leadership style, how they interact with and treat co-workers, their personality, their values, etc. One person I really look up to as a leader is Dean Itani, who served as the President of LIHC before my term. It’s hard to summarize concisely in words, but I think Dean has a lot of qualities that make up a great leader: a genuine care for the ones you work with, a good balance of assertiveness and empathy, a strong system of values that guides your actions, and a humble personality that isn’t afraid to be wrong and admit fault. These are difficult qualities to strive for and work towards.

If you could have dinner with any five people (living, dead or fictional), who would they be and why?
My list for dinner would be Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, and Alexander Graham Bell. These are all famous inventors in American history who helped make extraordinary progress during their times. I would want to have dinner and chat with them about all the technological innovations that we have today, and see what their reactions would be. Even though they were forward thinkers of their time, I think they would be very surprised by how far we as a society has come in improving quality of life through innovations such as computers and smartphones.

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