The Student Leadership Challenge

Terms in this set (18)

People describe their personal-best leadership experiences as times when they imagined an exciting, better future for themselves and others. They had visions and dreams of what could be. They had absolute and total personal belief in those dreams, and they were confident in their abilities to find a way to make extraordinary things happen. Every organization, every social movement, every big event begins with a dream. The dream, or vision, is the force that creates the future.

Leaders envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. You need to make something happen, to change the way things are, to create something new and exciting. In some ways, this means having a real sense of the past and also a clear vision of what the results should look like before starting any project regardless of size and scope, much as an architect draws a blueprint or an engineer builds a model. But you can't command commitment to a new future, as exciting as it may seem to you' you have to inspire it. You have to enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations. You can do this by talking to others and, even more important, listening to others to understand what motivates them. You enlist others by helping them to understand what motivates them. You enlist others by helping them feel they are part of something that matters, something that will make a difference, and something that you all believe is important to accomplish together. When you express your enthusiasm and excitement for the vision, you ignite a similar passion in others.
Challenge is the spark for greatness. Every single personal-best leadership case involved a change from the status quo. Not one person claimed to have achieved a personal best by keeping things the same. The challenge might have been launching an innovative new event, tackling a problem in a different way, rethinking a service their group provides, creating a successful campaign to get students to join an environmental program, starting up a brand-new student group or team, achieving a revolutionary turnaround of a university policy, or getting a new event under way with the intent that it become a new school tradition. It could also be dealing with daily obstacles and challenges, such as finding ways to solve a group conflict or attack a major class project.

Leaders are wiling to step out into the unknown. But leaders aren't the only creators or originators or new ideas, projects, services, or processes. In fact, its more likely that they're not. Innovation comes more from listening than from telling.You must constantly be looking outside of yourself and you r group for more new and innovative ways to do things. You need to search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve. Because innovation and change involve experimenting and taking risks, your major contributions as a leader will be to encourage experimentation and idea generation, to recognize and support the best of those ideas, and to be willing to challenge the system.

Mistakes and failures will be inevitable, but proceed anyway. One way of dealing with the potential risks and failures of experimentation is by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience. There's a strong correlation between the actions of leaders and the process of learning: the best leaders are simply the best learners. Leaders are constantly learning from their errors and failures and helping the groups they are part of to do the same. Life is the leader's laboratory, and exemplary leaders use it to conduct as many experiments as possible.
A grand dream doesn't come true through the actions of a single person. It requires solid trust and strong relationships. It requires deep competence and cool confidence. It requires group collaboration and individual accountability. No leader ever got anything extraordinary done by working solo. True leadership is a team effort.

Leaders foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships. They believe in the potential of others and the power of collaboration. They act on those beliefs by bringing people together and trusting that old truth that "together we achieve more." Leaders do what it takes to give people the confidence and competence they need to face the challenges ahead, to support each other and move together toward success. They engage all those who must make the project work -- and in some ways, all who must live with the results. People don't perform at their best nor do they stick around for very long if you make them feel unimportant, weak or alienated. By promoting the development of personal power and ownership, and by giving your power away, you make others stronger an more capable.

When you strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence they are more likely to give it their all and exceed their own expectations. By focusing on serving the needs of others, and not your own expectations. By focusing on serving the needs of others and not your own, you build people's trust in you as a leader. And the more people trust their leaders, and each other, the more they take risks, make changes, and keep organizations, projects, teams, and movements alive. When people are trusted and have more choice in how they do their work, more authority, and more information, they''re much more likely to use their energies to produce extraordinary results. Through that relationship, leaders turn others into leaders themselves.