A quality that I learned to possess as a student leader is to expect the same qualities from myself, as I would from others I am working with. For me, it meant if I ask someone to act in a certain way, I need to act the same way. However, this could be a way to set up expectations with the people that you are working with. In every single leadership role I held during my undergraduate career, my supervisors set up expectations for their students and had us come up with expectations for them. This was extremely beneficial for a number of reasons.
The first was being proactive. These expectations were established before we were able to start working cohesively as a group. Having these set up before we got into the nitty-gritty of a job created a foundation upon which we could feel open to share ideas and commentary. Proactivity was the most beneficial when I was a Resident Assistant at Emmanuel College. During my two years of being an RA, despite having two different supervisors, we still came up with staff expectations and supervisor expectations. These were made right at the beginning of training, before we could get started on any other work. However, I didn’t realize how important they were until my second year being an RA. It was then that I realized you can hold the same role as someone else, but have two different sets of expectations. For example, as a returner RA, I was called on to use the experiences I had to guide the new RAs in their first year. It was a mentorship-like relationship that made me really appreciate and get more out of this role.
Second, I noticed certain behaviors were commonplace within any leadership group. There were buzzwords that stuck out: flexibility, open and honest communication, respect. When this happens, it causes you to think more abstractly about what these concepts mean and how they differ from group to group. Being flexible goes further than adjusting meeting times, but can include adjusting to new group dynamics if a new member is brought in or taken out. During my time as President of my school’s LGBTQA+ organization, we experienced a lot of transition when it came to officers. I learned very quickly, that when in leadership roles, you need to learn how to adapt quickly to new people on your team or learn how to temporarily fill that role with people you already have at your disposal. But having these skills kept me on my toes for various aspects of my life, not even in leadership capacities.
Lastly, I found that when you have expectations from a supervisor and expectations from a group, you learn how to have expectations for yourself. These can be specific things you need to work on or things that will help you achieve the group’s expectations. The best thing about personal expectations, is that you can keep them to yourself or share them with your supervisor. But it is important to have a “Code of Conduct” so to speak on how you want to behave in a group setting. These can set the tone for how you grow and learn as a leader and keep you from staying stagnant in the same role for too long.
Learning these skills as an undergrad and being able to apply them to different capacities of my life has given me the chance to reflect on what I did as a student leader and how I can develop them to be a future student affairs professional.