Welcome to the next installment of the INSPIRE series. This piece is written by Matt, a driven leader who wants to share his insight with others. Enjoy & share!
I say this in two parts: first, the overarching theme that I am about to share with you is not groundbreaking, though it is my goal to shine it in a different light through my experiences. Second, and most importantly, I have failed numerous times in individual opportunities to lead others effectively; however, without these trying moments I would have never gained some of the most valuable lessons that I have to share with you. I do not claim to be a perfect leader, but I do claim to be an individual who strives each day to serve others better than I did the day before. The following are just a few of the lessons that I have learned. I hope that they help you as much as they’ve helped me!
“An effective leader will always pass the recognition onto the general body…”
- Leadership is a mindset. Many people will claim that “leaders” posses a certain talent or skill. However, I have found that leadership is more so dependent on a state of mind. While personality traits such as confidence, innovation, and decisiveness may enhance an individual’s potential to be a great leader, even the most skilled individuals may not be able to lead if they aren’t willing to put others before themselves. Effective leaders shift the focus from themselves onto those whom they are serving. Every action that you take within your role should be taken with the intention of benefiting the people or organization that you are serving.
- Find your role. As a leader, you will have a large influence in determining the direction that your organization takes. The question arises: How can you effectively lead without knowing your own role? Without a true understanding of your position, your potential as an effective leader will remain untapped because the time and energy that you invest into the organization will lack structure. Luckily, many organizations have a written description of their positions and the roles assigned to each. Read them. Additionally, ask your fellow members how they would like to see you integrate your leadership abilities in the organization. No matter how established your organization may be, your members will be satisfied knowing that they picked the right person to represent them if you let them play a role in determining how you lead the organization.
- Set realistic goals. After you have defined your role as a leader, take some time with your members to facilitate the establishment of the organization’s goals. These goals should be measurable and under the control of your organization. I recommend setting no more than five goals at a time so you will be able to pay proper attention to each of them individually.
- Follow through. Once you have listed your organization’s goals, now comes the time to plan out exactly how you are going to accomplish them. Though it may seem odd at first, I have found an approach called backwards planning or backwards goal-setting to be extremely helpful in completing daily tasks and long term goals. This mindset puts the focus on where you want to be at some point in time rather than concentrating mainly on where you are currently. To use this approach, first, picture your organization accomplishing a specific goal. Then, ask yourself what your organization would need to do just before that moment to reach the specific goal. In doing so, you have set a subgoal that will occur just prior to accomplishing the final goal. Repeat this step over and over again until you find yourself where you are currently. Retracing your steps from the finish line to the starting point will provide you with a roadmap to success by breaking down even the largest goals into smaller, more attainable pieces.
- Build individualized relationships in your organization. No two people are exactly the same. So why would you use the same approach to motivate members in your organization to accomplish a desired task? Your members are driven in their daily life by various factors, which will come into play when fulfilling their responsibilities in your organization. Thus, an effective leader will take the time to get to know each of his or her members on a personal level. By discovering the different reasons that each member joined, not only will you gain a better perspective of what they would like to see in the future, but you will also identify ways in which they can be inspired to help the organization reach its goals.
- Recognize others and share thanks. Oftentimes, the leader is looked to as the face of an organization. This can be a very humbling experience for many leaders, as you will be congratulated for nearly everything that the organization accomplishes, regardless of how involved you were with the process. An organization’s daily operation requires the hardwork of many people working together and thus an effective leader will always pass the recognition onto the general body or to those who were responsible for the feat.
Organizational leaders go to phenomenal efforts to see that goals are met and deadlines are reached. There may be times where you feel overwhelmed and overworked, but never let a day go by that you don’t thank those around you for the unconditional support that they offer you. In due time, you will see the work that you put in pay off through the positive impacts that you make on your organization and its members.
For the past year and a half, Matt has served as the Chapter President for Phi Delta Theta – Missouri Iota at Lindenwood University. Along the way, he has gathered countless pieces of information on how to be a more effective leader from personal experiences, lessons from other leaders, and many missteps.