You’d think that writing about “leadership” while in a program like mine would be easy enough. For me, it’s really difficult to go on beyond, “Well, I take the lead in planning some projects and activities, and in others, I am more content to be a contributing team member.” I work well with others in the lead or in a power-neutral setting.
However, take a gander at what my program’s “Leadership” competency actual breaks down into:
- Fiscal resources, budget development and management in supporting student affairs programs or services;
- Human resource/personnel management, including hiring, supervising, and evaluating employee performance;
- Organizational structure, dynamics, and systems;
- Legal issues critical in guiding and influencing practice;
- Campus climate issues, including administrative strategies to bring congruence between campus climate goals and realities.
Okay, here’s the good news. For one thing, it’s called a “competency” and not an “absolute mastery.” I feel like sometimes we get hung up on what competency really is. To me, being competent is understanding a concept in theory, having the opportunity to apply it in a real situation (or be able to demonstrate how it would be applied), and also readily admitting that I am always willing to improve upon the foundations I have.
Secondly, sub-points 1. and 4. have courses built around them. I haven’t taken those courses yet, but they are forthcoming. Additionally, I get to participate in conversation around those sub-points through things like Student Affairs Live and staff meetings. This is important to remember because otherwise, I’d probably be pulling my hair out going, “OH NO! I’VE COMPLETELY MISSED PART OF THIS COMPETENCY!”
The rest of the sub-points are readily addressed in a course in which I’m currently enrolled, AHE 558 – Organization and Administration. This is a great course for talking about topics from the lens of being an administrator. We had a good discussion surrounding management last night, and it was a good way to build on my knowledge of management both from undergraduate work and real world experience.
One of the biggest points that I heard was that the daily trials of managers and directors in student affairs are often times very similar to the trials I face as a graduate student. People can have disagreements at any level, or be met with seemingly incompatible communication styles, or be faced with working with a very small (and ever-diminishing) dollar figure… and so forth and so on. Knowing that the details will change makes me feel a bit better about moving up in the future.
I also heard second-hand accounts that there are managers out there that would rather not supervise others. In fact, one of our professors stated that he was terrible at managing others. While I’m sure that in time, I can be an effective supervisor, I’m still a little apprehensive about what my first professional experience in supervising will be like. After all, as I told my small group, my supervisory experience is primarily with members of my cheer squad and now, helping four undergraduate TAs lead a class with me. I haven’t had to watch an employee’s productivity, though, or give much feedback on what they could improve. I’m anxious to get to that–partially because I feel like becoming a manager or a supervisor will be crucial to my feeling like a “real” adult and professional instead of a “quasi-adult” as I call myself right now.
However, I know a big part of feeling confident and doing a good job will be showing that I am competent in being a leader. It’s not going to be entirely easy work, but if I stay true to my mantra of life-long learning and admitting when I need help, I’ll be just fine.
And being able to lead by example when it comes to believing in oneself is incredibly important in this field I’ve chosen.