Author speaks on 'leading imperfectly'

By Annie Giffels | 3/29/18 3:21am

Leadership Lecture RGB 03
GVL/Hannah Zajac— James Robilotta gives a speech about leadership in the Grand River Room on Thursday 27 Mar 2018.
by Hannah Zajac / The Lanthorn

At Grand Valley State University, there are students who have made this campus their adoptive home. To many, this might mean becoming a member of the Greek community, joining a campus organization or making friends with your neighbors in your dorm. 

To speak on this topic and the multiple other things that college life involves, the GVSU Greek Life Council brought in James Robilotta, author and professional speaker, for a speech called “Leading Imperfectly: The Value of Being Authentic for Leaders, Professionals and Human Beings” on Tuesday, March 27. Robilotta used humor and energy to deliver his motivating speech on the memorable qualities of authentic leaders. 

His speech centered heavily on how people, as leaders, can use their flaws and stories to create more of a connection with the people who surround them. To him, this connection is essential in creating an atmosphere of comfort and security in the more complicated times of one’s life, like being in college. 

“The man that you see before you today showed up to my first year of college and was absolutely miserable,” Robilotta said. “Academics weren’t enough to make college feel like home.”

Robilotta told stories of his past that described how he pushed through the tougher times. Born and raised in New York, Robilotta chose to attend college in North Carolina. Like many other college freshmen, he suffered months of loneliness and homesickness until he found his calling: getting more involved on his college campus. He went on to join a fraternity and also became a resident assistant. 

With the knowledge that he gained in those positions, Robilotta created his own acronym to describe what he calls “authentic leaders": PEORM (Purposeful Empower Own Real Moral). 

"Authentic leaders are purposeful in their actions, they empower others, own who they are, are real people and are moral," he said. 

Robilotta went through each word and explained the importance of each of them. He asked the audience different questions and had them get into pairs to discuss them. After a few minutes, Robilotta would recapture their attention with a humorous story from his college life that strengthened his point that perfect leaders do not exist. To him, it is the authentic, real people who make the most meaningful connections and impact the most lives. 

“We can’t learn from people who are perfect; we can only learn from those who are imperfect,” he said. 

Among members of the audience were groups of people who were in different sororities and fraternities wearing their letters proudly. The audience laughed with Robilotta as he used his sense of humor to drive his point home. 

Those who attended the event found it useful and eye-opening.

“It made me more motivated to get and stay involved with campus organizations,” said Kelly Pierce, a junior at GVSU and a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha. “You’re only here for four years, so you have to make it count.”

Those looking to get involved in student life at GVSU can join one of over 400 registered organizations. These organizations can be found through OrgSync.

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