I am constantly on the lookout for students who have the potential to lead. When I find them, I ask them this question: Have you ever considered applying or running for a student leadership position?
I want to encourage people to lead. The only way one truly learns to lead is by actually leading.
Most of the articles I write on this site are meant to encourage you to move into a leadership role, to improve your leadership skills, and to inspire you to step up and guide a group of people in a common purpose and goal.
This is not one of those posts. Today I want to try and talk you out of it.
I know you have potential. You love your school or organization. You want to see things get better. You want this club, this team, this project, this event, or this idea to grow. You have what it takes to give direction. You know what it means to guide others. You want what’s best for everyone involved.
I know you have passion. You hold true to the values that inspire others. Your example is one worth following. You embody the ideals that others admire. People are drawn to your influence even though you’re not in a formal position of leadership.
So now you believe it’s time for you to step up. You have an opportunity to take a position of leadership.
It won’t be easy.
For all of the reasons you want to be a leader, there are a hundred more reasons why you should turn around and run the other way.
Leadership is tough. It’s hard. It demands a lot out of you.
People won’t always appreciate what you’re doing. You’ll put in a lot of time and effort and people will still whine, complain, and grumble. Somedays you’ll feel alone and somedays you won’t have time for yourself. You’ll have to make difficult decisions and then you’ll have to explain why you made those decisions over and over again.
You’ll put your trust in others and they’ll let you down. People will promise to show up and then…not show up. You’ll ask someone to do one simple thing and it won’t get done. Some will enjoy showing up to the parties but never make an appearance at the workdays.
It’s amazing how many ways the members of your team will surprise you, for better or worse.
But don’t be surprised if people talk about you behind your back. You might get a call after an event because someone on your team dropped the ball, but you’re the leader…so you’re responsible. Some might even tell you you’re the worst leader ever. The complaints will ring in your ears a lot louder than any praise you receive. You might even get yelled at because someone is frustrated and since you’re the leader, he or she will take it out on you.
There will be tough situations, the kind that only the leaders get to see. You’ll have to decide the best path forward. When you make a decision, some people will like the decision and others won’t. You’ll never be able to please everyone. If you try, you’ll only end up pleasing no one. Besides, that’s a horrible way to lead.
You will be questioned. You will be doubted. You will be put on the spot. You might find yourself leaving a room in tears or walking away to punch a wall. There will be moments where you will wonder why in the world you even signed up for this.
Are you still here?
Leadership isn’t easy. You probably already know that.
In fact, here’s what I think is true about you…
You already know it could get really difficult but you choose to put yourself out there anyway. You’ve got something inside of you that is stronger than any obstacle, opposition, or struggle.
You actually believe you can make a difference.
You want to lead because you can make things better. You love people and you love your organization. You have what it takes to do something meaningful and significant in the lives of others. You have an idea of a better future and you want to include as many people as you can in achieving it.
In every difficult situation, you are able to focus on what’s most important. It’s your dedication and drive and desire that motivates you through the obstacles and pushes you forward. If this was only something you did to build your resume you’d be out the door at the first sign of trouble.
This isn’t about awards or accolades or personal glory for you. It’s not about being able to boss others around or get people to like you.
You want to lead because you want to give back and you want to move forward. Leadership isn’t for everyone. But it is for those who step into it for the right reasons. Those who do it for the good of others and the good of their organization will be much better equipped to weather the difficulties.
So let me ask you this: Are you still thinking about stepping into a leadership position?