Nugget# 2: Are Your Club Members Apathetic or Underutilized?

Nugget# 2: Club Members Apathetic or Underutilized?

As a student leader, have you ever thought that the members of your club were apathetic; or that “if you wanted it done right, you would have to do it yourself”? It would not be an exaggeration to tell you that these are the two most common statements that I have heard from student leaders. These statements tend to be immediately followed by a request for help to motivate and better utilize their members. Let me share with you some ways to look at these phrases and how they can be indicative of your leadership style, more than the club member. I hope these thoughts will help you to shift how you think about and experience being a leader.

The first question I ask student leaders is why do you think members are apathetic. The typical answer leans toward the factual definition of apathy as a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. However, the next set of questions focus on metacognition and how can better understand how they lead. The answers to these questions can help a student rethink how they are leading. Here are a few of the questions I ask the student leader concerning apathy:

  • How many students are on your membership roster?
  • How many of these members do you know personally?
  • Do you have subcommittees?
  • How many members are on a subcommittee?
  • How many of them attend your meetings (weekly, biweekly, monthly)?
  • What role can members play if they cannot attend a regular meeting?
  • Who makes the plans for the club members and officers, or officers only?

After asking and receiving answers to these questions, I am better equipped to provide specific insight to the student leader on how to lead more effectively. Utilizing some minor leadership technique tweaks, I can help student leader turn their organization into one of the most powerful and influential on campus. However, the leader will have to give up their pride and any self-centered need for self-recognition to help their members be more engaged.

When I hear student leaders proudly exclaim, “if you wanted it done right, you would have to do it yourself,” then I get the sense that this student may be controlling, a perfectionist, not a good communicator, or interested in building their resume with a title. A few of the questions that I ask the student leader who makes this statement include:

  • Do people perceive you as bossy, controlling or too demanding?
  • Do you see failure or mistakes within the organization as a reflection on you personally?
  • Do you know how to delegate? Explain your process to me.
  • Do you personally know the skill sets and strengths of your members?

Simply taking the time to care about your club members as individuals and their interest in being in this club can help you serve them more effectively. The more you serve the developmental needs of your members, the more they will serve you and the organization. This small change will increase group engagement and productivity for your organization.

At the end of the day, your members may not be apathetic or at all. They may feel ignored and when a person does not feel you are listening, they may shut down, become unmotivated, complain, or even sabotage your efforts. So, take the time to learn your “staff” and how they can best serve the club or organization. This is step one in helping members find their place within the club or organization. You will see more productivity. No one will remember if you fail, but everyone will remember how you made them feel a part of something bigger than themselves.

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Nugget#1 What Makes a Good Leader

Nugget#1 -Whats Makes a Good Leader

Over the years, some of the best student leaders that I engaged with were those who cared deeply about their club’s purpose and mission, and those who were committed to the leadership development of their peers.

It is easy for students to take on a leadership position and get a title to build their resume, but leadership is so much more than that. As a leader you should see yourself as the building contractor or the person responsible for implementing the design given by the architect. In the case of clubs and organizations, the leader’s` responsibility is to implement the plans of the membership developed as a shared vision. The shared vision for the year is developed in partnership between the E-Board and the members who all have a vested interest in the organization. Members want to be a part of the planning and program design, but many times the members are left out of the vision creation and are expected to implement a vision created by the leader or E-Board members.

A good rule of thumb for leaders to remember leading others is that people join clubs and organizations because they want to participate. They may join because they believe in the mission/vision and value of the organization (e.g., Black Student Union, LGBT-Ally group, Muslim Student Association) or they want to network with people with similar values and interests. They may also join as a means for sharing their skills and strengths with the organization (e.g., organizer, artist, accounting) or for developing their skills (e.g., public speaking, writing, debating). Everyone has an opportunity to build their resume in this process.

No matter the reason, people join organizations for a reason. A good leader or team of leaders (ergo the E-Board) will make it a point to learn from each member the reason they joined, which skill sets they have to offer or which skills they want to develop, and how much time they have to contribute. Armed with this information, the leadership is more equipped to help members find their place in the organization and are better positioned to lead their organization to great success, without doing the work meant for the members.

Are you a newly elected college student leader?

Every year, matriculating college students are elected to leadership positions during the Spring semester. Unfortunately, many of them are elected without a clear understanding of how to effectively lead their peers or their organizations. There are many reasons why this lack of understanding exists.

Some reasons include:

1. The departing leaders didn’t model good leadership, so there is nothing for the new leaders to mimic.
2. There wasn’t any short or long term strategic plan for the new leaders to use as a roadmap.
3. There are no minutes or well written records to help the current leaders understand where the organization has been and where they need to take it.

If this is your situation and you find yourself nervous (or even afraid) on how you are going to be a good leader, don’t worry. Here are a few tips to help you create a leadership development training program for yourself this summer.

1. If you don’t already know, go online and take free assessment tests on your communication style, your leadership style, and your personality preferences. These tools are just a guide to help you better understand how you will engage with your peers when school starts.

2. Gather as much information as you can from the club/organization adviser, former student leaders, members, campus administrators and alumni of the club/school and gain a good understanding of the history of the group. Equipped with this information, from past and present leaders, advisers and students, you are better prepared to draft a roadmap for how you would like to lead the group on its journey into the future.

3. Commit to reading as many leadership books and articles that are relevant to your age group. There are many, but three of my favorite books to help introduce leadership principles and responsibilities to students include 1) 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and 2) Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell, and 3) Emotionally Intelligent Leadership: A Guide for College Students by Marcy Levy Shankman and Scott J. Allen. Of course, I can recommend many other books, but I have found these books easy to read and necessary for helping students understand good leadership principles (relationship over dictatorship) and how to understand themselves, in relation to effectively leading others.

4. Finally and most importantly, start getting over yourself. Yeah, I said it, GET OVER YOURSELF! Being a leader is hard work and requires you to be a servant to the members of your group. When you serve them, they will serve you. When you dictate, they will leave you to do all the work yourself, talk about you, and make excuses for not being involved. It’s important that you clearly understand that if you intend to do all the work, then you are not intending to be a leader. Leaders are actually leaders of leaders and hold primary responsibility for seeing the big picture and helping member see how they can contribute to that big picture, but every little thing they do to contribute. The leaders coordinate the effort, keep everyone on time, encourage, teach, and model the way.

Now, leader of leaders….train them up! LEAD members to success and everyone succeeds. Dictate the outcome and the process and everyone loses.

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