Leadership Lessons I've Learned as Parade Director for UC Davis Picnic Day

This year I’ve had the honor of serving as the Parade Director for UC Davis’s Picnic Day. Picnic Day is the largest student-run event in the nation and attracts over 80,000 guests annually. The Parade is the first event of the day, and its energy sets the tone for the rest of the day. Safe to say, I was under a lot of pressure to get this tradition right.

I’ve held several leadership roles in the past, but none of them involved letting thousands of people down if the event went awry. This year, I gave everything possible to make sure my aspect of Picnic Day runs smoothly. Here are some leadership lessons I’ve learned serving as Parade Director this year.

1. Mentorship is one of the most rewarding parts of being a leader.

I have four lovely Assistant Directors on my Parade team, and I’m sad that I won’t get to see them almost every day of the week! Part of my job is to prepare my Assistant Directors to be capable of running the parade if I was not there. In addition to writing an informative board report of the parade planning process, I am also diligent in telling them when I’ve made a small mistake or what can be improved for efficiency. But, being their mentor also implies that I can learn a lot from them. They have taught me that when you get to know your teammates outside of the work environment, you understand the motivations behind the work decisions they make and there is a greater sense of trust.

2. You cannot please everyone.

The first sentence to one of my UC college application essays was, “I am a doormat.” Although I think I’ve grown out of my doormat days, there are times when I do let people walk all over me at the expense of my academics, mental health, or emotions. I am a people pleaser by nature; I love being nice to everyone! However, when you have around 80 Parade participants and almost 100 people on the Picnic Day Board, it is impossible to please everyone. Compromise and innovation are key to solving problems on teams big and small. This way, everyone feels heard, and at least that will please them!

3. How to manage a large time-sensitive project.

Google Calendar is my soul sister. When I received my list of deadlines for the parade back in September, the first thing I did was input all of them in my Google Calendar. That way, I could see how my milestones were spread out and I could break down those larger tasks into smaller, achievable goals on a daily or weekly basis. Identifying each step that needs to be done is extremely helpful in keeping yourself on track with assignments that have timelines.

4. Chunk out work/extracurricular time according to your study habits to create balance.

I work best from 8:00 PM – 12:00 AM. Winter quarter I had to be in the Picnic Day office for six hours a week, and this spring quarter it increases to eight until Picnic Day. I chunked out my classes and office hours to end before 4:00 PM so that I had time to go home, work out if I wanted to, make myself dinner, and lean into focusing on my academics at a pace that was right for me. My majors often require more creative approaches to assignments, and I know that I am most creative at night. Finding a system that works for you is important to balancing work/extracurriculars and school.

I hope reading this sparked some new ideas in your mind ─ especially if you have leadership experience. A piece of advice that keeps on giving was told to me by my high school leadership teacher: lead by example. If you want to work with people who are approachable, team-oriented, and open to new ideas, then you have to live those ideologies as well.

I had such a great time being this year’s Parade Director. The Parade begins on campus at N. Quad Avenue and runs through downtown. Visit the Picnic Day website for a map and a list of all of the events happening that day! Come out on Saturday, April 13th at 10:15 AM to watch the Picnic Day Parade!