Written by Matthew Taboni, JD/MBA –
Leadership is defined differently for each person. In my past five years at UB—four as an undergrad and now in the JD/MBA program — have learned five key leadership qualities that can be applied to all individuals across any profession.
The five key leadership qualities I learned at UB are:
- Seek opportunities.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle.
This quote sits on the wall of the Student Union and is one of the many quotes I’ve passed by hundreds of times. Unlike the other quotes that I don’t remember, this one holds the most weight to me when it comes to being a leader. The best leaders don’t address problems with more problems, they come with solutions. When you are faced with adversity or challenges you should seize the opportunity to see how that challenge can be turned into something impactful. COVID taught me this more than ever and each roadblock to us was not a challenge, but an opportunity to try something new.
- Say yes to as much as possible.
Building on the theme of seeking opportunities, another lesson that I learned was to say yes to as much as possible, within reason. Burnout is real and leaders have to learn to manage their time in order to avoid burnout, but at the same time take advantage of opportunities. Throughout my college career, I have grown the most by trying new things and saying yes to new opportunities. Strong leaders are those willing to try something new and see where it takes them. Always come prepared to embark in a new direction and learn as much as you can along the way.
- Never do it alone.
While this quality is sometimes challenging to fully take on, understanding how to work with others is a very important skill to learn. Collaborating with other disciplines, mindsets, and backgrounds has expanded my leadership ability and perspective. As a Social Impact Fellow, I experienced first-hand how powerful it is to work with individuals of different backgrounds. Those who can solve problems with other people have greater success and are seen much more favorably than those who do it alone. Beyond working with others, another aspect of this skill is being able to ask for help. No one can do everything alone and recognizing that you can’t is a really powerful tool leaders wield.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
One skill that leaders often fall short on is communication. In every class, club, or activity and everywhere in between, communication is the foremost important tool for success and yet it is one of the most challenging to master. Learning how to communicate with my peers, local businesses, upper administrators, and everyone in between has been an invaluable experience for me. This skill is sought after time and time again. As students go through their time at UB it is important to consistently work on your communication skills and take opportunities to practice and develop them.
- Find a mentor.
While this may not be a skill, it is one of the most valuable lessons of leadership I have learned at UB. Having mentors is a key quality of a successful leader. Mentors can be individuals who you aspire to be or peers who have a skill you hope to gain. Either way, finding and building mentor-mentee relationships is a key aspect of leadership. Serving both as a mentor and having many mentors in my life, I have seen how valuable they have been in encouraging me to go beyond what I knew I was capable of and pushing me to continue to learn. Without my mentors, I know my leadership journey would have been very different.
Matthew Taboni (he/him/his) is a Town of Tonawanda native and is in his first year of the JD/MBA program at the University at Buffalo. While an undergraduate student at UB, Matt majored in Business Administration and minored in Non-Profit Leadership. With a passion to make an impact on his community, founded UB’s food pantry, Blue Table, and began bringing more attention to food justice and food insecurity on college campuses. He is also engaged in student government at UB and has advocated for students’ mental health, gender equality, and other student needs. He now serves as the UB Sustainability Zero Waste Intern and in his free time works as a decorator at Buffalo Cake Pops.
Matt joined the UB JD/MBA program to continue his education and acquire new knowledge in the business and law fields. After college, Matt hopes to move into a nonprofit or activism career where he can continue to make an impact on those around him. Feel free to reach out to Matt about applying to dual degree programs, anything about UB, social justice, non-profit and activism, and baking!