Just Starting Out! 7 Priorities for New Student Leaders (#4)

One of the most overused cliche’s out there is the phrase, “At the end of the day…” People use it as a way to sum up an argument. They use it to make their point (or point of view) appear to rise above all of the confusion and chaos that exists “during the day.”

With that disclaimer, I’m going to go ahead and use it, in a slightly different way, as an introductory question for this post.

Imagine that you and I get to sit down at the end of your student leadership year. We are talking about all of the highs and lows, the good times and the not-so-good times. Then I lean in a little and look you square in the eye and ask this question:

At the end of the day, what did you actually accomplish as a student leader?

Now we get to the heart of the matter.

In my seminar called, Impact, I identify student leaders who are in a position of leadership but make no difference, don’t accomplish anything, within that position. I call them “figureheads.” Maybe you’ve seen one or two of those?

One of the best indicators that you will accomplish something (meaningful!) during your time in student leadership is the clear list of objectives you state for yourself (and those you’ll work with) at the beginning of your student leadership year.

The fourth priority is to define your goals.

Here’s what I think: It’s better to set out to accomplish something then to come to the end of the year and hope you accomplished something. So I’m encouraging you right here at the start of your student leadership year to define your goals. Here are some ways you can do that…

1. Dedicate yourself to goals that are bigger than you can accomplish alone.
If you’ve read the previous posts in this series you already know that a person who does everything by him or herself is a student worker, not a student leader. Goals that require more than your own effort will actually help move you toward being a leader. Besides, your goals should be for the benefit of others. Goals that only benefit you are small goals. Dedicate yourself to goals that make a difference and you’ll see that others are willing to dedicate themselves to those types of goals as well.

2. One of the best ways to define your goals is to make sure you can measure them.
If you goal is to the best _insert your student leadership position here_ you can be, that’s great. But it’s going to be really hard to measure. Define your goals in such a way that you can know for certain when, where, and how they were accomplished. For example, have effective meetings is not a measurable goal. Distribute action items to team members at the end of every meeting is measurable.

3. Declare your goals.
Don’t make these goals your best kept secret. If you are going to create goals that are bigger than you, let people in on it. Declaring your goals will help you in a couple of ways. First, it makes you immediately accountable. When others see you, they’re going to ask how it’s going, how are you coming along with that crazy, big goal you declared. Second, as I mentioned before, people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Declaring your goal may be your best recruitment tool. You may be the leader people have been waiting for to make this type of goal a reality.

4. Break your goals down into steps.
If your goals are bigger than you, they’re probably a lot more work to accomplish. In order to make things more manageable, break your goals down into tangible steps. Big goals are overwhelming if they’re not broken down. This is where leadership is crucial. You will need to make decisions about strategy and tactics in the day-to-day work. You will be required to communicate with everyone where your team is at as you move closer to accomplishment.

5. You can’t do anything you want. Your goals should be aligned with the other priorities.
Do you want to confuse people and frustrate others? Then define goals that have absolutely nothing to do with your position, your vision, and those on your team (as well as the other three priorities we’ll talk about in future posts). The reason I mention this here is because I’ve seen student leaders use their position of leadership for something outside of their responsibility or authority. Since you only have one year in your student leadership position, use the time wisely to do what you’ve been elected or selected to do.

If you’ve read through these first four posts in this series, I hope you’re beginning to see some of the overlap that’s occurring. Each of these priorities is tied to the others. They effect each other. They work together in demonstrating and developing your leadership. This is especially true for the last three priorities that I’ll look at in this series. Stay tuned.

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