Many students in college, particularly the students that intend to pursue a career in student affairs (in my opinion), are always looking for ways in enhance their leadership skills. Many of them take leadership classes or get involved in a variety of organizations such as joining a fraternity or sorority, joining a academic club, being a Resident Assistant (RA) or getting involved with student government. They do whatever it takes to be seen as a leader.
However, not many people talk about the importance of being a follower and how that impacts student leadership.
Many think that you are either one or the other: You are either a Leader or a Follower. True leaders, no matter what the job, organization or area they are in, were once followers at some point.
For example, many at my alma mater know me from being involved in multiple organizations and holding a variety of positions on campus. However, I was not always willing to be involved. In high school, I wanted nothing to do with standing out. I just wanted to be shoved into the background and blend in with everyone else.
When I started college, I didn’t really have any goals that involved student leadership. I was planning to just get my grades and get through these 4 years with the least amount of drama as possible.
I then became involved with residence life serving as a Resident Assistant in a brand new residence hall. Never having been in a leadership role, I had to rely on my peer RAs (whom were all 2nd and 3rd year RAs) and my graduate assistant resident director to guide me through the position. I knew that if I wanted to be successful in this role, I had to follow their lead. I asked for their advice and did what I could to learn from them.
I eventually found myself involved in a variety of organizations as an executive board member. I started at the bottom and in a short time, I found myself to be president of one of the largest organizations on campus. In my past roles as an executive board member, I pretty much went to the beat of my own drum. I was assigned as task and as long as I completed the task on time, it did not really mater how I completed that task. However, when I became President, I felt that I had to handle everything by myself. I forgot about how important it was to learn from my peers and my advisers.
Being in this role is where I learned the most important aspect of being a leader, being able to learn as a follower. To lead a team, we can’t just be at the fore-front, we must also be able to work as part of a team. Leaders need to be able to delegate tasks, while also being willing to get down and dirty ourselves. Rather then having all of the ideas, its also important for leaders to build on the ideas of their peers.
In my leadership, I found that letting my peers take the lead in some projects helped us all to grow as a team.
How do you use your experience as a follower to be a leader?
Thanks for reading.