Leader extraordinaire: David Mandell shares his leadership secrets

February 5, 2011 — by Emily Williams

Senior David Mandell knows what it takes to make people listen; he knows what it takes to be a role model; and, most importantly, he knows what it takes to be an influential student at Saratoga High.

Mandell fills numerous leadership roles for many different on-campus organizations. He is the Associated Student Body (ASB) president, he acts and directs plays, he is drum major in band and he is speech and debate captain.

What makes a good leader?

Mandell has worked hard to gain the respect and trust of fellow students, a virtue that has served him well. He has been involved in leadership since he was the board representative at Saratoga Elementary when he was in kindergarten.

“I got to eat ice cream sandwiches at the first meeting,” Mandell said. “I think that’s why I wanted to become a leader in the beginning.”

But Mandell soon found that being a leader was more than just eating ice cream sandwiches. He discovered that “it’s every day things” that make a person a leader.

“It’s the simplest things like saying ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’ to some one that you don’t know. You’d be surprised how many times I have heard that and it made my day so much better. Just a smile makes some one’s day that much better,” he said.

The key to being an effective leader, according to Mandell, is gaining the respect and trust of others. People have to be able to trust their leader to know what he or she is doing. This is true not just in student government but also in life.

“Some people define [being a leader] on the position you hold and some people define it on the little acts that you do through out the day,” Mandell said. “I like to use both. I think that you need both to be a very effective leader. If you have the position and do nothing with it you’re not going to be a leader, but if you have no one to listen to you then it’s going to be hard to be an effective leader as well.”

The passion to lead:

Mandell credits his upbringing for his ability to command respect from others, whether it be adults or peers.

“My mom always taught me really good morals. Simple things like thank you notes; they don’t make you a leader, but it gets the respect of others,” he said.

Mandell’s combination of charm, friendliness, honesty and genuine compassion earn him respect from adults and peers alike.

“He’s a lead-by-example kind of kid and I think people recognize that,” assistant principal Karen Hyde said. “He brings people in and makes it work for them. He makes people feel special.”

Mandell’s natural leadership qualities and his passion for the responsibilities that he assumes have given him the confidence to lead his peers. In the end, Mandell said, it’s not about the job, but the intent of the aspiring leader.

“You just have to do what you love and sometimes you’ll be a leader in your own way. Sometimes you won’t have the position, but people will follow you if you trust yourself,” he said.

The confidence to dream:

Mandell has always made room to follow his own heart no matter what others think. In seventh grade at Redwood Middle school, Mandell opted to join honor chorus even though a friend cautioned him that doing so would be “social suicide.” Mandell believes that his ability to follow his passions with confidence has improved his ability to lead others.

“If I am committing ‘social suicide’ at least I’m doing what I love, and I think that is somewhat of a difference that makes me stand out,” he said.

According to Mandell, the greatest barrier for students who want to become leaders is the fear of rejection.

“I think people are afraid of trying and not being received well by the other students,” he said. “If you stand up there and make a speech and they make fun of you it puts you back. It is really easy to be swept up in the high school hierarchy to be the cool one as opposed to the one following your dreams.”

Mandell’s positive attitude keeps him going even when things don’t work out. He keeps his spirits up by looking at the opportunity in his rejection and failure.

“When I look back, I don’t look at things I didn’t get as bad. I look at them as what I did to get beyond them,” he said.

During freshman year, Mandell faced a defining moment in his leadership career. As class president Mandell had no idea what he was doing since the class didn’t even have an advisor.

Yet in the face of uncertainty Mandell rose to the challenge and pulled the class together during Homecoming week.

“These are the times that we need to take some risks, because if we don’t learn how to take risks we are going to live our lives very cautiously,” Mandell said. “Life shouldn’t be measured by thing we do but by but the risks we take.”

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