“Leader” was a label that always seemed to apply to Adrian Obleton. He had all the qualities: Charisma, intelligence, compassion, a desire to help. Adding to that, he’ll soon have the certificate, as he’s set to graduate as a member of the Leonard Leadership Scholars Class of 2017.
Yet the 21-year-old management information systems major admits he was naïve to how much he had yet to learn about leadership when he was accepted into the Institute for Leadership Advancement's program two years ago.
“Being a Leonard Scholar for the past year-and-a-half, I’ve realized how valuable of an experience this program really is,” Obleton says. “I’ve learned a ton – about leadership and about myself.”
This fall, as a part of an ILA course, Obleton and a team of Leonard Scholars conducted a service learning project with Athens Montessori School. Obleton was not chosen as team captain for the project.
“Being the one who follows and not the one setting the path is really helpful to learn how to be a part of a team,” Obleton says. “Understanding more what it’s like from the follower’s position will help me be a better leader in the long term.”
Obleton also has taken his turns charting the course as a leader for various groups. In 2016, he captained Terry’s team for the National Diversity Case Competition. Currently, he is head of consulting for the Corsair Society, a university-wide student organization that helps prepare undergraduates to succeed in highly competitive fields like investment banking, financial services and management consulting.
Most notably, Obleton was president of the Zeta Beta Tau Mu Chapter at UGA and is one of four undergraduates serving the fraternity at the national level. His yearlong term as ZBT president ended this month, and Obleton believes he has left the post wiser for it.
“Toward the beginning of my time as president, I had very specific ideas about ways I wanted to do community involvement and volunteer work,” Obleton says. “Basically, I came to the group and said, ‘This is what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,’ and it was like pushing up against a brick wall.”
So, he utilized the things he learned from his ILA courses to solve the problem.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from ILA – and this is something that I think a lot of real-world leaders could benefit from, too – is to listen to your followers and realize that you have to bring your followers along with you, not force them in a certain direction.” Obleton says. “I had to find philanthropy opportunities that our [ZBT] members cared about and find ways they could make a difference that were meaningful to them. I think, if I had spent all my time trying to get them to go in my direction, we would have never accomplished anything.”
The ZBT Mu Chapter has carried out a number of successful philanthropic projects that have helped other student organizations and community groups.
“The most beneficial leadership skill I’ve acquired – both through ILA and my extracurricular activities – is the ability to be more empathetic and relate with people on a more personal level,” Obleton says.
ILA lecturer Jodi Barnes, who taught Obleton in two of the four required ILA courses, has watched him emerge as a promising leader.
“There are some people who are just conscientious in their bones, and Adrian is certainly one of those people,” Barnes says. “Adrian is someone who has a growth mindset, someone who is looking to learn, not looking to get from an A- to an A. I feel like it’s an honor to teach somebody like that.”
After he graduates, Obleton will join Bain and Co. as a management consultant, but his long-term goal is to pursue a career in public policy, specifically working with social and economic justice initiatives.
“Being inclusive and allowing everyone access to the same things is particularly important to me,” Obleton says. “I don’t view life as a zero-sum game. I try to focus less on how I can be personally successful and more on how I can help others find success