At some point during your college career, you might find yourself taking a course related to leadership. In a leadership course, you are typically introduced to various leadership styles, theories and strategies that teach students how to become effective leaders. With anything you learn in class, however, nothing beats applying classroom lessons to real-life experience.
Last year, I rose to the challenge of becoming a student leader for the first time in college. Before I became an e-board member for Temple PRSSA, I joined a non-profit organization called The DREAM Program, which is a mentoring organization for kids in low-income communities. As a new member, I quickly moved up into an e-board position within the same year I joined. As I reflect on my journey, I take note of the challenges and lessons I have gotten from experiences. Here are some of my most valuable takeaways:
Don’t be afraid to share your ideas
You join a new club filled new people you don’t know. Panic mode may set in for some, like it did for me. When it came time for DREAM meetings, I would often sit in the back of the room and stay quiet until it was over. The hardest part for me was overcoming that initial feeling of intimidation. I always believed my ideas were not important enough to be shared due to my lack of experience. I quickly learned, however, that even the strongest of leaders started somewhere. I made a personal goal for myself to say at least one idea each meeting to break the ice. Overtime, I began to talk and collaborate more with my fellow DREAM members. I learned my ideas mattered to the entire organization and helped us grow as a whole. All I needed was a little push or encouragement from myself and others around me. Now as the co-chair position for DREAM, I am happy to say I am the one conducting the general body meetings each week. A year ago I would have never imagined being in such an incredible leadership position. All I had to do was speak up and be heard.
Trial and Error….and more trial and error
My first chair position in DREAM was the fundraising head. In the past, I participated in countless fundraisers as a volunteer. As you can imagine, being on the other side of planning a fundraiser was certainly overwhelming, but I was up for the challenge. Being detail-oriented became crucial during the planning process. Despite how detail-oriented I was, however, sometimes events would not succeed as much as I planned. One of the hardest lessons that came out of unsuccessful fundraisers was overcoming the disappointment. In order to find success, you need to see what works and what doesn’t. This extends outside the realm of fundraising to all areas of leadership. Great leadership does not happen overnight, and in order to become a better leader you need to fail sometimes. Execute multiple initiatives and worry about the outcomes later.
Take initiative and be active
If being a strong leader is something you strive for, make that opportunity happen for yourself. Leadership can be a daunting task, especially if you are leading a large group of people. Being the co-chair for The DREAM Program this year has definitely presented me with some challenges so far. However, I enjoy every second of it. From my experience so far, I’ve learned that when leaders take initiative, it turns into a domino effect throughout all other members. Leaders are active in their organization and give members a guiding vision as to what goals they want to accomplish by the end of the year. It keeps your team of people going, and looking for better opportunities. Leadership does not mean being in a high position of power; it is about being effective and making the first move.
Although learning about leadership style and theory can be helpful later on in your professional career, the only way to truly understand what it takes to be a leader is rising up to the challenges, both big and small. At the end of the day, leadership can have many different faces. Leadership does not mean being in a high position of power; it is about being effective and taking initiative for a common goal. So, go out and accept the challenge of leadership. Find opportunities to be a leader anywhere. You’ll surprise yourself along the way.
By: Marissa Piffer