One of the most desired profiles in college admissions and the workforce is someone with leadership experience in a variety of roles.
Whether it be related to sports, ASB, music, theater, community service, or anything involving the management and coordination of a project, leadership is something that is often cultivated through experience.
The difficulty with many opportunities for leadership in high school is that they often are not accompanied by constructive feedback designed to mentor the upcoming leader. Just because people gravitate towards someone does not mean that that person knows how to handle their charisma or what to do with it.
Here are five shortened tips for leadership in a volunteer organization based on my experiences in Boy Scouts, sports and ASB: facility, hats, corners, blinders and food.
- First, forget the whole “I’m the boss” act. Instead, become a facilitator of the project, event, or operation you are managing.
Now that you have stopped preoccupying your mind with how you can best act like the blustery leaders on TV, you may begin considering how best to construct and run the event so that its purpose can be more thoroughly fulfilled.
One effect of facilitating is that you are more inclined to listen to those who have new or unique ideas.
The funny way the cosmos of leadership works is that the more effort you put into advancing the good ideas and functions of the event and its people, the more respected and credible you become.
- Secondly, start collecting hats. Can anyone identify with the massive ‘just be yourself” movement? You can trust it, partially.
Something that I realized in my struggles in Boy Scouts is that, while I must be the same person in all situations as a leader, I had to wear different hats.
For instance, every leader must know how to put on the hat of service. Often the most respected kind of leader is the one serving others.
Other examples range from hats of brainstorming, event setup, thanking, and correction. The hat of correction can be a tough one because it can go both ways: sometimes you are being adjusted in your course, and other times you need to counsel or coach someone else.
The hat that seem to be sorely lacking is that of discernment. People seem to be too willing to complain to their “subordinates.” A wise man once told me that you never complain down the chain of command, and you always constructively suggest changes at appropriate times up the chain of command.
Even if you dislike a decision that your superior made, you have no right to undermine their authority by complaining to the school’s gossip.
Instead, be one as a team in your support and criticism.
- Thirdly, be willing to talk to anyone and everyone.
The purpose of leadership in high school is part preparatory for the real world, which includes managing events, dealing with tough situations and networking.
Have you ever seen anyone hide in the corner for a whole event? Have you ever seen anyone hide within a group of people, never talking or making eye contact with anyone?
For whatever reason, my conscience won’t let me sit down until I have struck up a conversation with them, helped arrange them to be participating in the next activity, or created an environment that they feel included in.
More often than not, they become the most dedicated and excited members of the next year.
Do not discount those who linger on the outskirts, for many of them really do have a way to contribute in the future.
- Fourth, put on blinders. Has anyone seen those blinders that horses or dogs wear? They are like a head covering with pads on the sides of the eyes, forcing the animal to focus on whatever is straight ahead.
It is a similar idea with leadership in volunteer organizations: focus on what your project and purpose is, and leave the rest to others.
There are two mistakes often connected with the word “delegation” The first involves a leader who will pretend to empower someone else, all the while ready to take charge at the first opportunity.
If you delegate a task or project to someone, you should only in the worst possible scenario take that power away from them and begin running it yourself.
The second mistake is that of delegating so much that you cease to have any task for yourself. You need to keep an eye out for people who do this: it is their way of having power without responsibility and accountability.
- Lastly, you should be able to eat a variety of things, including garbage.
I guarantee you that someone out there will not understand or like part of your event or program and complain because they either don’t see the whole picture or are simply grumpy individuals.
While keeping an eye out for how to improve or build on your event or program, you should be prepared to encounter such individuals.
Also, you should be able to eat dessert.
One of my favorite parts of all the projects and events I have run is the after-party, if you will. No matter how difficult the situation in the program was, the best part was relaxing with a piece of pie and some fellow workers to recall the good portions, laugh about the bad parts, and ready ourselves for the next challenge.