The Importance of Being A Follower In Leadership

Hello Readers!

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.

-Mike Harris



What Is Your Purpose?

Hello Readers,

With it being graduation season, I thought I would write a little something to maybe inspire some of the many graduates that will be or have already walked across the stage and received their diplomas and degrees.

When I decided to pursue Student Affairs as a career, I will be honest, my intentions were pretty selfish. Deep down, I wanted to do it for the recognition. I wanted to be seen as a important person, I wanted people to tell me that I matter to the world. However, I didn’t really know what my purpose was. I didn’t know WHY I wanted to go into student affairs.

In one of the organizations that I was involved in, my adviser asked me a very important question that I never really thought about, “Why do you want to go into student affairs?”. At the time, the answer I gave was “Because I think I will do a good job.”

It was at that moment that I realized that “Because I think I will do a good job” is a terrible answer that has no meaning. This answer may have had meaning back in grade school, but not when I am about to get into my field.

Being asked this question led me to ask myself many more questions:  “WHY am I going into student affairs?” “WHAT do I want to do with a degree and a career in student affairs?” “HOW do I want to impact this world?” and “HOW do I plan to do it?”.

To this day, I am still searching for the answer to some of these questions, but as I began my summer internship the following summer, these questions stuck with me and I believe they made an impact on my overall performance in the position.

I started to think about how I could impact this world through a study and a career in this field. Through my summer internship, I got to work in many different roles and get a taste of different areas that stem from student affairs such as Orientation, working with students from underrepresented groups and of course Residence Life.

From that experience, I was able to answer some of those questions that my adviser asked me that day. I discovered that my passion is playing a part in providing services to students. Helping students in anyway I can to help them through what could possibly be the most difficult challenge of their life. After reflecting on my personal collegiate experience, I discovered a passion for helping students that come from the same background as myself.

Today, I am so thankful that my adviser challenged me by asking me so many difficult questions. I feel like I have a completely new outlook on student affairs and what impact I can make on the students that this field serves.

Graduates, ask yourself this, What is your purpose? What will you do with your degree? How will you impact the world?

Thank you for reading.



Hello Readers!

I am so excited to share with you all that after hundreds of applications, phone, Skype and on-campus interviews, and rejection emails, I have finally found where I am supposed to be. I have accepted a full-time professional staff position at Western Kentucky University as a Assistant Residence Hall Director for the Department of Housing & Residence Life. I will also be able to pursue my masters degree in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program.

A few months ago, I wasn’t even sure if I was cut out for a career in student affairs. I let all the voices in my head get to me and I almost missed out on what is going to be one of the best experiences in my life. Last week, I was able to visit¬†Bowling Green¬†and WKU for an on-campus interview. I was just blown away by how beautiful it was. The photos online does not do the campus justice. Hearing stories from some of the current professionals there about Bowling Green, WKU and the Student Affairs program had me so excited that I didn’t want to leave.

My entire on campus interview experience was just V.I.P. I felt like they really wanted me there and that they wanted to see me succeed. In addition, Bowling Green just felt like home.

I am so thankful for the people that have believed in me, the people at WKU for giving me this opportunity, and most importantly, for God because he helped me to get here and had a plan for me even though I almost gave up on myself.

This opportunity is much more then I could have ever imagined it would be for a student just getting out of undergrad. I am so ready to dive into the fabric of the WKU community and give back to the students. I am ready to be a mentor and continue working my way toward becoming a top-tier professional in the field of student affairs.

Keep a look out for more updates as I begin my graduate school journey.

Thanks for reading.

— Mike Harris