Lessons in Leadership

As a leader, recreationally or professionally) sometimes things go wrong, and that is okay.

This past semester I was president of a club I have been apart of since I came to Mizzou. I enjoyed my other positions of leadership within the club and overall the team had been pretty solid. As the seasons have gone on, obvious institutional problems started to appear and due to a myriad of reasons they never got addressed and mended. Instead, the club got passed along, becoming weaker and weaker… until it fell apart.

Inheriting a mess of a situation isn’t ideal. But it is something that most leaders will encounter in the workplace. At the beginning of the semester, the class of convergence project managers were taught how to be a good leader. While some lessons were specific to the field, I want to share the more universal tips:

  1. Listen and communicate
    1. Layout initial protocols and specific expectations that lead to tangible goals. A good leader knows each of the team members on an individual basis and has an open line of communication. Listen to their concerns, ideas or problems. Respond with respect and in a way that helps them sharpen and focus their ideas on their own.
  2. Delegate but don’t dictate
    1. Having faith in your team to carry out tasks is the key to success. A task was assigned to a team because one person couldn’t accomplish it on his or her own… so stop trying to do it all yourself. Each member of your team has certain strengths that make them an asset. The quicker you learn to employ their strengths the more efficient the team will be. However, keep in mind what motivates them and make sure it is still a positive working environment.
  3. Don’t choke out potential
    1. This goes hand in hand with the last point. Make sure your team knows what they are doing but then get out of the way. By forcing your team to do things your way, you are reducing the potential for creativity and innovation.
  4. Be okay with failing
    1. Not everything will be a success but what makes a failure successful is growth. When something goes wrong take a moment, gather the team, and dissect the situation – positively. The more they can learn from the situation, the better off the team will be and the less of a chance that this exact failure will happen again.  

So, as you can imagine, it didn’t feel too great when the team finally fell apart under my leadership. Initially there was a lot of self blame, disappointment and general anger. However, I came to realize that I could attempt to pull together something up until a point but in the end, keeping a team afloat can’t be up to just one person. Or, as it was phrased to the convergence project managers, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.
Realizing that something isn’t going to work out the way you wanted it to is hard absorb. But, take solace in the fact that you tried your best and learn from the situation.

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