“If I can’t count on you, don’t try to lead me.”
Dependability is crucial to effective leadership. As a student leader, you will always be learning new things. No matter what your experience has been so far, you still have lot’s to learn and you’re going to make mistakes. That’s ok. People will forgive you almost any fault you have as long as they know that they can count on you. If you’re dependable, people will forgive any other faults you may have, but if they can’t count on you to be there no matter what, then you can’t expect them to let you lead them. Let me tell you a story about a student leader named Matt to illustrate what I mean:
Matt was a very busy guy. He was the super-student involved in almost everything at school. He was captain of the basketball team, had great marks, worked a part-time job, was dating the best looking girl in school and was vice president of the student council. To many, Matt was the poster child for student leadership. Except most people couldn’t see the truth about what Matt was really like.
Matt friends were often frustrated with him because he was often late and sometimes didn’t show up to meetings or practices at all. He was famous for double-booking himself between basketball and work or student council and study dates with his girlfriend. No matter what he chose to do, he was always letting someone down.
The sad thing about this situation is that it was hard on everyone. And it wasn’t that Matt was a bad guy, he just wasn’t dependable and it was hard on him because it seemed like someone was always on his back about something that he was supposed to do and didn’t, and it was hard on those he worked with because they never knew when Matt would be there and when he wouldn’t.
Does Matt’s story sound familiar? Have you ever been like him? I know when I first became a student leader, I was a lot like Matt. In my first years as a student leader I was: playing on the golf team (yeah pretty geeky right?), on student council, in the musical, on the drama club, in the band, working part-time, and working hard to stay on the honour roll at school.
I was so enthusiastic and so badly wanted to be a part of everything, that I over-committed myself. Rather than picking a few things and doing them well, I was doing a ton of things with half dedication. I sacrificed quality for quantity. I want to encourage you not to make the same mistake.
If you’re reading this article it means that you’re a leader, and as a leader you are quite likely to have the kind of personality that is focused on achievement. That’s great. But you have to be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of focusing so much on building your resume that you sacrifice the quality of your work and the amount of attention that you give to each commitment.
Today I’ve changed some from my early days as a student leader. I’m still a very busy person, and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. But I make sure, as best as I can, not to give myself so many commitments that I can’t give them each the attention that they deserve.
Leadership is tricky business. When you lead people they tend to look up to you. They look to you for a model of what they should be doing and expect that you’ll be perfect. Of course, you won’t be. You can’t be, you’re human. You can’t help the fact that you’ll make mistakes, but you can control whether or not you’re dependable. Make a decision today that from now on, you will always be where you say you’ll be and you’ll do what you say you’ll do.
By Michael Williams