After we elect and select students for our student leadership positions, we gather them together and give them name-tags and t-shirts and bestow upon them the title of student leader.
Yet I am always quick to tell them that the title comes with an asterisk (*)…
You may bear the title of student leader, but you aren’t a student leader until you actually lead.
I like to make the following distinction (in simplistic terms):
You are a student worker if your focus is getting everything done by yourself.
You are a student facilitator if your focus is getting everything done with the help of other people.
You are a student leader if your focus is on helping other people in the process of getting everything done.
Once again, my hope is that students who step in to fill a student leadership position will then begin to step up to the role of student leader. This leads us to the third priority.
The third priority is to gather your team.
I can hear you pushing back a little bit against this one already. You are probably reading this on a monitor and saying to your screen, “But I was elected/selected to serve ON a team. I don’t get to GATHER a team.” Like I said, I hear you.
The unfortunate thing is that most student leadership programs are set up to create a group of student workers or student facilitators. They hand out job descriptions that tell you what to do. You have tasks and projects and events you have to accomplish. Yet, what they fail to tell you or equip you to do is accomplish those things while guiding a team of people…to lead.
Even if your system or structure isn’t set up for you to create and develop a team of people…that’s exactly what I’m encouraging you to do. Here’s some things to look for and think about as you tackle this priority:
1. Potential Leaders.
You will want people who may not currently serve in a leadership position, but exhibit the potential to be a leader. In order to do this, you must begin to look at people not as they are, but as they could be or become. Identifying potential is somewhat of a sixth sense. If you don’t have this ability, find someone who does to be your eyes and ears to spot these individuals. One of the reasons you want potential leaders on your team is because you want to spend time developing the leaders who will carry on after you have left your position. I’ve written about identifying potential leaders here as well.
2. Diverse talents and strengths.
You might be tempted to put people on your team who think like you, act like you, and agree with you. But that only creates a weak team that lacks perspective. Find people with different backgrounds. Seek out people who excel in areas you are weak in. Remember, your first priority isn’t to create a team where you’re well-liked, but to create a team that’s well-rounded.
3. Recruit others to a cause, not a position.
A leader must communicate the vision of the team (reread priority #2 if you haven’t already). If you ask people to be on a team and oversee a certain task without framing it in the context of the Big Picture…they won’t be as passionate about what they’re doing. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to make a difference and feel like what they’re doing is making a difference. As the leader, show people how they can do that through their role on this team.
4. Look for people who have succeeded elsewhere.
I’m a firm believer that certain people can be successful no matter where you plant them. Intelligence and savvy move with a person from place to place. Find someone who has risen to the top in another area and he or she can probably do it again on your team.
5. Clearly communicate levels of commitment and expectations.
When you put your team together, clearly state at the beginning what you expect of those on your team (we’ll tackle this one in priority #6). Make sure that your team doesn’t have to guess what your goals, vision, and strategies are. Nothing will sap the momentum and vitality of your team more than failing to clearly communicate with each other.
Once you’ve gathered your team, you might begin to wonder what to do next. I’d encourage you to take a look at a couple of the ebooks I’ve written. They’ll give you ideas and help better prepare you to distinguish yourself as a student leader.