Article from Campus Activities Programming® Magazine’s “Curtain Call” – May 2017
Once upon a time, there was a new advisor named Bob. He was a nice guy who loved working with students and was excited about his new career in higher education. He wanted to be a great advisor. He worked very hard his first year to get new students to join his committees. At their meetings, they read articles on leadership development and wrote reflections on what each lesson meant to them and how they could apply these ideas in real life. They attended conferences and participated in workshops. They learned all their individual strengths and were able to put those into practice in different settings around campus. They faced challenges individually and as a team and they learned how to overcome them and grow stronger together.
Bob focused his energy on and dedicated his time to this group. He wanted them to succeed as they marched forward through their college years. And, yes, they did become a strong team. They were awesome, growing from brand new emerging leaders to seasoned experienced leaders who produced great events. They influenced the culture on campus and were loved and respected by all. It all culminated in one final amazing semester and then – they GRADUATED!!!
Although sad to see them go, Bob was now ready to start over with a brand new group. In his mind, he had succeeded. He had led the team towards victory and then, like a proud advisor, let the individuals fly off confidently into the next chapters of their lives. But Bob made a leadership development boo-boo.
All along, he left out a major component of his own team’s leadership development – that his team needed to recruit, train, teach and mentor the next group of emerging leaders. Rather than creating a culture where his students were able to leave a lasting leadership legacy, Bob’s amazing team’s knowledge got dumped into THE LEADERSHIP LANDFILL!!!
This is a sad and dark place where ideas, knowledge and skills go to rest in obscure and unshared silence. It’s not pretty there. Nothing happens. It just fills up with missed opportunities, lost ideas and forgotten victories.
Luckily, all was not lost. Leadership development is a journey. Bob met some amazing advisors that summer at a conference where he shared his story of starting over again and he was open to hearing their ideas on how to improve his own leadership development curriculum.
One of the amazing advisors named Dani said to Bob, “Your students learn from YOU giving them appropriate guidelines on how to share their knowledge with newer students and make it meaningful for these emerging leaders.”
“Could it be something as simple as a check list or a training guide that the seasoned students use as they teach new students?” Bob asked.
“Yes,” Dani said. “That’s a good start!”
“In our office, with our student workers, the returning staff directly train our newly hired staff,” Lacey added. “We try to hire at least a few of our new student workers before the end of the spring semester so they can get familiar with our policies and procedures.”
“Wow, I don’t have to do it all?” Bod said, amazed.
“We use legacy binders and calendars of the year that include a master list of traditional events,” Jamie jumped in. “We also have new officers in place for last few events of the year so they can see how things run successfully. The binder gets passed down from semester to semester, and it includes specific roles and responsibilities of each job, even including event notes on what worked, what didn’t work, and what needs improvement.”
“Great ideas,” Bob replied. “I never knew!”
“Delegation of responsibilities to committee members throughout the year has helped my program boards transition easily,” Katy added.
“Delegation of responsibilities is a huge deal,” Bruce chimed in. “Student leaders try to shoulder so much, when they could be imparting their knowledge through working alongside and mentoring up-and-coming leaders. This keeps a constant wave of educated and prepared leaders in an organization. It’s a beautiful self-perpetuating sustainable cycle.”
Bob frantically took notes, finally looking up after writing, “self-perpetuating sustainable cycle.”
“Thanks everyone,” he said. “I can’t wait to implement these ideas in the fall. I will now actively and intentionally support the leadership legacy of my students and do everything I can to avoid THE LEADERSHIP LANDFILL.”
Of course, Bob’s story is fictitious. He’s not a real person. But, he is similar to someone you’ve met before. The other advisors in this story, however, are real people doing really great work on their campuses, teaching and implementing leadership programs alongside their students, and helping them recruit and train the next group of emerging leaders. We thank them for helping Bob and for reminding us of the many possibilities in the sustainable cycle of leadership development.
What are you doing on your campus? Are you helping your students create a “Leadership Legacy” or are you filling up “THE LEADERSHIP LANDFILL?”
Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville, TN, and is one of the most awarded music performers in campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project.”