Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What I learn from being a 'student leader'.

Nearly a decade and a half ago, I was one of the most active student leaders during my undergraduate years in Edinburgh. It has taught me a lot of things, and on top of the list were goal setting and group maintenance, and of course, HAVING FUN being one fantastic leader.


Goal Setting
As a leader, I realised that it was essential to listen to the needs of the group that I was leading. Yes, some groups do have their predetermined goals, but it didn't have to be just that. In order to set the groups' goal (not our own!), it was important to ask the team members - 
  1. Is the goal realistic? (Projected participants will be able to come since it is held mid-term.)
  2. Is it attainable? (Can we achieve what we plan to do?)
  3. What is the anticipated end-result? (At the end of the programme, at least 50 first year students will join the group).
  4. How many members are expected to participate in attaining the goal? (Full co-operation, and not hangat-hangat tahi ayam/melepaskan batuk ditangga).
  5. What are the reliable sources? (Who can actually REALLY help us in realising the plan? Is she/he/it available? Contacts available in hand?)

Group maintenance
With this, what I meant was keeping the members' interest with you as their leader, and with the group that they join. It is essential to know what are the motivations for students to part of a group. Some of the reasons might be;
  • A desire to learn and develop new skill
  • A desire to feel useful and needed
  • A desire to be a part of activities that have importance
  • A desire to gain visibility and recognition
  • A desire to help others
  • A desire for a sense of security
  • A desire to reduce loneliness
Hence as leaders of members who have variety of personal needs, we as leaders need to remember that our 'subordinates' need
  • to feel supported
  • to feel appreciated and rewarded
  • to feel that the tasks given to them challenge their abilities
  • to know that it is ok to make mistakes
  • to know that resources (and yourself, as a leader) are available to help.

View yourself as a team player more than a leader... 
Pix credit to Carsten Reisinger

All in all, being a student leader
  • I learn how to be more responsible and organised person.
  • I learn to observe people's behaviour, how to approach people when asking for help.
  • I communicated better with peers and superiors.
  • I discovered the ways on how to plan effectively and accomplish the plans successfully, as a team.
  • I found out how to trust the right people (the hard way), and how to re-trust others.
  • I noticed that dispersing a huge plan into tiny units of jobs, needs a lot of planning but would have a greater result - a successful event and an ecstatic team.
  • I had a very strong stand (and still am) towards musyawarah - effective, short, brief and to-the-point meeting.
  • I learn to compliment my team members and praise them for the job well done... (even it was not up to my standard.. )
  • I understood that resolving conflicting ideas within team members needed a fair mind, and not emotional heart (and lots of patience, too!) (Have planned to write an entry on CONFLICT.. soon insha Allah..)

During those years, I learn all of these from many leaders around me, my Abah, Mak, Abang Shah-Kak Tie, Abg Sham-Kak Ninie, Ustaz Azman-Kak Anis, Abg Wan Saiful, Abg Cairul, late Gillies Haughton, Ruby Rennie, to name the very few...

To all student leaders out there, whether you're heading a big society, small dorm, tiny-weeny sub-unit, with glamorous status or not, ENJOY yourself as a student leader. Enjoy the learning curves, the ups and downs. It'll make you stronger and more independent. It'll make your uni life more enjoyable.. I enjoyed mine, each and every bit of it... alhamdulillah. 


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