Lessons in Leadership

Let me start off by saying, by no means do you need to have a title in front of your name to be a leader. Being a leader can be many things. As a leader, you are a motivator, an organizer, an empath, a visionary, and most importantly an individual who inspires others to follow your principal. Being a leader teaches you many lessons, most of which you will not learn by reading a textbook or sitting in a classroom. Being a leader does not mean you are the smartest individual in the room, but you are likely the most influential. Being a leader is the greatest responsibility one can hold.

As a leader, you must learn to talk less and listen more. Given the role you presume, people will listen to what you say, but one of the biggest parts of your job it to listen to others. Hear their opinions and ideas, their knowledge will make you stronger and could blossom into something incredible you may not have been able to accomplish on your own. Listening to others will allow you to build trust with those around you and develop a greater sense of community.

Narrow your focus. If you attempt to do too much and spread yourself too thin, you will quickly learn that it is not affective. Focus on a few things at a time, things that really matter and will make a difference. At the end of the day, you should not measure your deeds as a leader by quantity, but by impact. There may be hundreds of distractions and demands with thousands of ways to respond. But it is the short few goals you carefully carryout that deliver true results.

Recognize that you cannot please everyone. As a leader, I put so much pressure on myself to satisfy every single individual in the room. In an organization of over 200 undergraduate students, that is no easy task. It may even be impossible. I learned to call the shots as I saw them and do what I believed was best for the greater good of the group, not an individual. Not pleasing everyone often means their will be criticism. If those critiques happen to circle their way back to you, do not take the defensive. Recognize where they are coming from, be willing to listen, but then, move on. Do not try to change your leadership style to please another person. Do not think that this one cruel opinion paints the bigger picture of who you are as a leader. One mouth does not speak for everyone. Take a deep breath, trust your instinct, and continue to be the leader that this group elected. You will get caught in moments where you do not think the highest of yourself, but what matters is that others think highly of you. Those who you lead and inspire look up to you and your character more than you realize. You have an impact on people that you may not realize. I assure you, that even if you cannot see the strength of the person in your reflection, others do.

Being a leader has been the hardest, messiest, and bumpiest ride I have been on during my college career. There were many ups and even more downs, but each struggle made the great times that much more treasurable. I have been fortunate enough to hold four different executive positions in student organizations. Each with a different role, purpose, and outreach in the community. Each position came with its pros and cons and plenty of teachable moments. As I close my senior year, the biggest lesson I have learned as a leader is to be grateful. Grateful that you are surrounded by people that will allow you to lean on them as much as they lean on you. Grateful for the opportunity to build relationships with these students and have even the slightest impact on their life and outlook of the world. Grateful for the growth the hours of deadlines, paperwork, and organization of meetings provides. Most importantly, grateful for the chance to develop leaders that will become greater than yourself. I have watched those that I have coached through executive positions blossom into individuals that I now look up to, with wholesome hearts and the utmost determination. It’s funny how the roles switch, but it fills you with an unimaginable sense of pride. In my eyes, that is how I know I have done my job, leaving the place, the organization, and the people in a better place than when I started. And for that, I am forever indebted.