Throughout the Mock Trial and Moot Court seasons my Type A side continued to show. As if I had not put enough on my plate already, I became the co-captain of Sycamore High School’s International Humanitarian Law (IHL) team for the Red Cross Campaign Competition. In addition, I had previously been the co-captain of the Sycamore Water Polo Team. While both teams ended on a successful note (Our IHL team won first place and our water polo team placed first in Cincinnati and 4th in the State) I discovered that I took away much more than trophies and awards from these experiences. Both taught me how to deal with challenges and the many contradictions people face in any type of leadership position. Therefore, this blog post is dedicated to advising on how to be a positive leader, and how to have a strong balance so you and your team can be successful.
Knowing when to vent and when to be an optimistic leader: We all need to vent sometimes (Let’s face it, life can get hard!) However, when placed in a position of leadership, it is important to realize that all eyes are on you for how to act and respond to different situations. Successful leaders know when to go off to privately vent and seek advice, and when to maintain a positive stance and encouraging attitude. For example, during this water polo season, our team began the season with most our varsity line-up gone (having graduated) and most the water polo community thinking little of our team’s potential. However, my co-captain and I constantly kept our words and spirits high in order to prevent the team from falling into a negative attitude. I then found that talking to a trusted friend or family member was a way of venting and seeking advice when I needed to release any worries. This helped me balance my need to talk about my worries while not letting them interfere with being a leader or interfere with the positivity I wanted for the team. Keeping a positive attitude helped our team show the water polo community that nothing would stand in our way.
Know when to put in extra work and when to delegate: Being a leader is a constant balance of responsibility. Furthermore, part of that responsibility is fixing issues when they arise but also giving others the opportunity to do their job and learn from the experience. It is important for leaders to make themselves available so that if an issue does arise they can then work to fix it. For example, this could be the leader putting in extra time and effort outside of what they originally expected in order to keep things organized and running smooth. However, also it is important to be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for others in your group who have ideas or the ability to do a task or fix a problem well. Since being a leader is also about helping others advance, making sure to give others the chance to learn and grow is vital. By knowing when to take charge and when to delegate the team can move forward faster and work to each team members’ strengths.
Make expectations clear, but be considerate of the other individual’s lives: This was something I that that came up often in IHL. Since so many of us were juggling busy schedules I often had to make decisions on when to ask for more from someone and when to work around an issue they were currently dealing with in their life. By keeping in mind that I was not the only one with a hectic life, and by keeping open communication with the other members of the team, we were able to move deadlines around between individuals. Therefore, when one person had more time during a given week they stepped up to assist another and then visa versa other weeks. I found that by making the expectation clear and knowing when to have a hard but necessary conversation, the team was able to know when they needed to step up while being able to continue dealing with all the other challenges we were facing in our day to day life.
Being the strongest in a room, and also helping others be their best: While a strong leader is important it is said that “a team is only as strong as its weakest link”. While it is necessary, as a leader, to hold yourself to a higher standard and constantly make sure you are doing whatever it takes to be your best, a true leader knows how to bring out the best in others. By taking time to answer questions, teach information and help members of the team confront their fears, a great leader can make their overall team the strongest. Furthermore, being a leader does not mean you have to be the best at everything, but that you have to be able to be the best at furthering and encouraging the team to be successful in order to bring out the best in others. Therefore, it is important for leaders to not get nervous when another person is better at a specific task then them, but instead encourage growth since the better each person can be, the better the team is as a whole. As long as you are pushing yourself to be your best, and helping your team do the same you will be successful.
Be proud of your work, but give credit often: When you lead something that is ultimately successful you should feel proud of your accomplishments (you did a great thing!). However, leading a team is just that, leading. In order to lead you people who want to follow and learn. Therefore, credit must be given where credit is due. Therefore, it is important to point out how well members of your team did and how big of an impact they were to the overall accomplishment. By giving credit to those around you maintain a thankful and respectful mentality that makes you see the beauty and success in those around you. Knowing you were a part of someone’s success is a life-changing experience, and the joy and celebration should be a done just as the work was that earned the success: together.
Make it so people feel comfortable coming to you for help and advice but do not forget your needs: Being someone your team came come to with any ups and downs is important. This is because it opens up communication and strengthening your group as a whole. Furthermore, being able to show that you care enough to help others starts a chain reactions from team member to member. However, in my experience, it is easy to help others so much that personal well-being suffers. Due to this, as a leader, it is vital to be both helpful and kind to not only those around you but also yourself. This means taking time to get enough sleep, nutrition and remembering to take breaks so that you do not hit a wall along the way. I have found that when you neglect yourself you cannot perform at your best and therefore can not be your strongest for your team. Therefore, remembering to have a balance and make your and your team’s well being a priority is key.
Remember to expect excellence, but be compassionate as others learn and grow: Referring back to my article “Mock Trial, real life lessons”, it has been an enlightening experience being both a successful follower and a successful leader. Due to having both experiences, I have learned that leaders need their members to be accountable, but non-leaders need advice and assistance in order to complete what is expected as they learn and grow. Therefore, being able to maintain compassion and open communication between both individuals is important in order to unite and assisted both sides. It is a leader’s job to lead by example, and hold others accountable for giving their best effort and best work. In return, it is the learner’s responsibility to ask questions and work as hard as possible. As long as everyone is progressing success is possible.
I hope this advice is helpful to other leaders, and wish the best of luck to both the leaders of today and the leaders of the future!