Undergrad publishes book on leadership

By Mary Zemaitis

Pete Mockaitis, senior in business, never found a book that tackled his specific struggles as a student leader.

So he decided to write one.

The result, “The Student Leader’s Field Guide,” will debut at a book signing Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Leadership Center, located on the second floor of the southwest side of the Illini Union.

“For an undergraduate to take it upon themselves to be bold enough and passionate enough to complete such a project is a great accomplishment,” said Ray Price, director for the Leadership Center.

The book contains practical tips for running student organizations and empathizes with the challenges student leaders face, Mockaitis said. The content is based off his own experiences and the experiences of other student leaders.

One chapter focuses on the importance of mission statements, what it means to have one and advice on forming a mission, he said. Other chapters discuss hints on how to run a meeting and how to be most effective in leading others, Price said.

Mockaitis said he had thought about writing a leadership book since high school, and finally undertook the project the summer before he started college. Mockaitis wrote a little bit whenever he found free time, and an accountability group he is part of helped him keep a book goal, he said.

Once the book was finished, he sought out a publisher and sent out query letters, which are one-page synopses.

“It was a learning process,” Mockaitis said. “I became good at handling rejection.”

Lang Marc Publishing, a small operation in Texas, showed interest in his book. As he started going through the process though, Mockaitis said he realized the publishing business did not think his book fit the mass market.

Feeling a “renewed passion for the entrepreneurial spirit,” Mockaitis said he decided to cash in a mutual fund and created his own publishing firm, Optimality Press, on Sept. 14.

Mockaitis said he enlisted the help of his friends in creating the book. Brent Jones, a senior at Southern Illinois University and high school friend of Mockaitis, handled the page design. The design aspect presented some challenges to Jones and Mockaitis. Jones faced some complications at first because he had only designed newspapers at that point, he said.

“Design is a specialized thing,” Jones said. “There were limitations he had to work around. He’d have to change his idea of what he wanted to have the book look like. It didn’t come out as he originally envisioned, but he was happy with the end result.”

Price said the initiative Mockaitis took is beneficial for a leader.

“I always say you can learn as much by writing as reading,” he said. “When you ask yourself ‘What do I really believe?’ you learn about yourself as a person and as a leader.”

Writing reflections and using a journal is important as a leader because it forces you to articulate what is important, Price said.

“That is a powerful experience for anybody,” he said.