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Arianna Huffington Preaches Leadership And Sleep At Penn State

Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of the award-winning Huffington Post, spoke to Penn State students Thursday night in the Eisenhower Auditorium about the importance of leadership and the role that a good night’s sleep plays in discovering your inner leader. The acclaimed Greek writer gave a lighthearted speech, even asking for the lights to be turned up just minutes in, but she had a strong message.

Huffington opened with a quick anecdote, detailing an interaction with a Penn State student who assumed that the journalist knew nothing about her. On the contrary, a quick peruse of her likes and interests on Facebook and scroll down her Twitter timeline told Huffington everything she needed to know. At least I think that’s what she said, as it was at times a bit tough to understand the Greek accent that she still has despite leaving the country 45 years ago. “The explanation my husband has it that it’s because I never listen,” she said, pausing for effect with comedic timing that even Seinfeld would envy. “Maybe that’s why he’s my ex-husband.”

It wasn’t all jokes though, as Huffington explained that more and more people are beginning to lose trust in our leaders, and for good reason. The crowd showed their agreement with a round of applause. Women, she suggested, might just have to be the ones to redefine what leadership is, as compassion and empathy are essential traits when “the opposition is demonizing any group that’s different”. While the popular belief is that driving yourself into the ground represents a good leader, Huffington disagrees. Instead, she believes that working around the clock hampers productivity and leads to stress, which leads to bad decisions.

The Huffington Post is in a phase of transition, as they were acquired by AOL last year for $315 million, and she took advantage of the opportunity by installing two nap rooms, dubbed NapQuest 1 and NapQuest 2, a play on the name of AOL mapping service MapQuest. She knew it was time for a change when after a college visitation trip with her daughter that forced her to work nights, she ended up fainting from exhaustion and hitting her chin on her desk, good for a trip to the hospital and a few stitches. She said that the website’s new human resources director works in an entirely glass office, and uses a curtain during his siestas that boldly reads, “Renewal is an efficiency-increasing weapon.” They eliminated naptime after second grade, but Arianna Huffington is bringing it back.

That’s not the only revolution she’s a part of, as the Huffington Post has riden the wave of new media right to the top. She cited examples of how new media has given a voice to those who may not have had one before, such as the recent controversy involving Susan G. Komen for the Cure, in which public outcry led to the foundation reversing their decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, or the Arab Spring last year where the rapid spread of ideas saw leaders and dictators fall faster than was ever possible.

The message that may have hit home most for the audience was Huffington’s reference to THON. When she first heard that over $9 million was raised, she believed that to be the organization’s total since it first started and was surprised to hear that it was the 2011 total. She praised the dance marathon and said that in a recent talk with the Huffington Post editors, it was decided that “the world should know about it because you never know who will be inspired to do something themselves”.

Throughout the entire hour that Arianna Huffington spoke, she always referred back to the theme of tapping into your leadership potential. She said that leadership is like a muscle, the more you use it, the more it grows. While a fear of failure may hold a lot of people back from taking the step to become a leader, she said that she has always followed her mother’s adage that “fear is a stepping stone to success”. So do you want to keep being a follower, or take the advice of Arianna Huffington, and find the “leader in the mirror”?

About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.


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