Just Starting Out! 7 Priorities for New Student Leaders (#2)

When you consider the opportunity to serve in a student leadership position, you begin to imagine all of the things you could do in that position. You see yourself in it.

Now that you’ve been elected or selected, you need to take the next step. It’s time to decide. Out of all of those things you could do, what are you going to do?

The second priority is to set your vision.

Take a deep breath. Vision is not a scary word. In fact, it is as simple as painting a mental picture of an ideal future. For example, let’s say you and your friends are trying to decide what to do this Friday night. You speak up and say, “Let’s go get something to eat at Red Robin and then head over to the game.” You know what you just did? You cast a vision.

The truth is, everyone has a vision. Everyone has some idea of what he or she would like to do or be in the future. The difference for leaders is that they cast a vision that includes others as well. That’s one of the ways you can tell who the leader is in a group of people. Just look around and ask: Who’s vision are these people following?

Think about it – you have one year. That’s both a blessing and a challenge. You have an opportunity to try some things, experience some things, and learn some things along the way. You get to make some decisions about your year by the kind of vision you set. Here’s some ways you can set a vision people are excited to join in on…

1. Write your end of the year speech at the beginning of the year.
Use that imagination of yours and write down what you want to say to all of your friends and fellow students. Tell them what this year looked like. List out the changes you made. Talk about how people feel. Note your accomplishments. As Stephen Covey has stated so well, “begin with the end in mind.” This exercise is very similar to what you did when you wrote your speech or sat in an interview for your position. You shared what next year will look like if you’re the leader.

2. Gather people together and listen to their hopes and dreams.
One of the fundamental principles of good leadership is that the leader doesn’t have to be the smartest, most creative, or most talented person in the room. He or she only needs to know where to find those people and get them on the team. Don’t think that you have to come up with a clear and compelling vision all by yourself. Just know you must have a clear and compelling vision.

3. Put it on an index card.
You want to create a vision that is memorable, as well as achievable. That means shorter is better. State your vision in a way that people can quickly pass it on to others.

4. Make your vision unique to you and your year.
One of the main differences between a mission statement and a vision statement is in it’s uniqueness. Most mission statements can be easily transferred from one group to another and aren’t attached to a timeframe. But a vision statement captures something special about you and your student leadership year.

5. “Set” means “say”…a lot.
Many organizations will start their year crafting a vision. They’ll go through the process and come up with a statement. Then it will sit there…collecting dust…dying in a stack of good intentions. The leader is the keeper of the vision. When you set a vision for your student leadership year, you also have the responsibility of tying everything you do back to the vision (or tying the vision into everything you do).

In the end, you can make this process as formal or informal as you’d like. But I’ve come to see that the best leaders, the most effective ones, don’t just let the year happen to them. They take the time at the beginning to create a target on the wall and then aim for it all year long.

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