Saturday, February 26, 2011

Club election complete

This year, I was a co-leader (along with a classmate) of Q+, the LGBT club at the School of Management. The time came recently to anoint leaders for next year. Each club goes through this process a bit differently. We have an amazing group of first-year students who would make awesome club leaders, but we really had no idea how many of them would want to run.

We decided to accept statements of interest, then hold an election in the event of more than two candidates. It seems like this setup had the effect we were hoping for, which is that the first-years sort of selected amongst themselves privately, so that in the end we did indeed just get two candidates, obviating the need for an election. And I'm personally thrilled with the people we got -- a guy and a girl who were probably the most involved in the club throughout the year. They're quite different from each other but get along great, and they are both good friends of mine. So I think the club is in good hands.

Being a club leader for Q+ turned out to be maybe the most formative and meaningful activity I took on this year, because I actually did learn how to lead better. I tried to create an environment where people feel listened to, supported, praised and encouraged.

That sounds like BS, so I'll be more specific. At the beginning of the year, I made a concerted effort to welcome each first-year, introduce myself, befriend them on Facebook and take each out to lunch, to assess what they were like, let them know they were important, and find out what their interests were. In light of the vibe I was getting -- that these were really nice people, almost all in serious or semi-serious long-distance relationships, and generally well-focused professionally -- I then started a weekly newsletter that focused on things to do at Yale that I thought would interest them, things Q+ was doing, career/networking opportunities, news and announcements, etc. I tried to make the tone somewhat newsy and professional but also dryly funny when appropriate -- my goal here was to keep people accountable, involved and publicly acknowledged.

Throughout the year, I tried to take care of the logistics that would stand in people's way; so for our trip to the Reaching Out conference in LA, I tried to deal with the hotels, flights and preparations for the students who went. Whenever possible, I completed reimbursement forms for people so they could get travel expenses and other things compensated easily. I also tried to listen and take action when people had ideas or issues; so when a student complained about the same-gender roommate policy for the international trip, for example, I inquired, found out what steps we needed to take to change the rule, formed a committee, asked someone to write up our thoughts formally, and submitted it on behalf of the club, thinking that something with the club's official name on it would be taken more seriously than the grievance of just a few students.

I could go on, and this is starting to come off as a boastful post, which wasn't my intention ... But I wanted to impart some personal learnings beyond vaguely saying that I learned things about leadership. I think a different approach, and one that might work for certain types of leaders in certain scenarios, would have been to be more authoritarian, plan all the events myself, and wield around the weight of my authority. That's definitely not my style, or my strength, and I think leading the club has been a good opportunity to sort of test how my natural personality can jibe with a leadership style. Ultimately, though, I wouldn't have been successful at all if the first-year students hadn't been so involved and responsible.

I hope I contributed, but at least I can choose to believe I didn't actively stand in the way of success.

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