The title of this blog might have been misleading. After a few months of reflection, I have struggled with whether or not I truly was a successful leader. However, the thing we need in an abundance, especially during this time, is grace. For the sake of sharing what I learned in 2020, I will grant myself some grace and label my term as successful, even if the only success was my refusal to give up.
In November of 2019, I was elected as the Chapter President of my sorority. It is an organization made up of around 250 women whom I respect deeply and was excited to serve. With the most trustworthy, capable people by my side, we took over the operations of the chapter with no idea what was soon to come. The first couple months were trying because of a snowstorm cancelling our flights to a leadership convention and contentious senior members who always seemed to disagree with us. By late March, though, those challenging days seemed like a dream.
The next eight months were a whirlwind of deep uncertainty. Like most other schools across the country, our university shut down in-person classes. Our sorority house closed for the semester. Before I knew it, I was back in St. Louis living in my parents’ house and trying to run a sorority.
I doubt there will ever be a complete, step-by-step list that will encompass everything it takes to be a successful leader, but it would be a shame if I missed the opportunity to share what I found to be helpful. Here is my personal guide to successful leadership during the most trying times. After all, hindsight is 2020.
Confidence is key
If you are not confident that you will be able to carry yourself and those you lead through a difficult time, no one else will believe that you will be able to either. When a global pandemic took the world and turned it upside down, I was a 19-year-old sophomore in college who was barely prepared to lead a large group of young women, much less do so virtually and without consistent information regarding the future. If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that confidence is never something I seem to lack, so it was terrifying when I was faced with something that made me question my own abilities. To be fair, though, no one was prepared to handle all of the fallout that a pandemic can cause, so why couldn’t I be the one to do so?
You cannot allow that which you cannot control to take control of you
It was not my fault that my members’ worlds seemed to be falling apart, but it was my responsibility to do what I could to keep one area of their lives safe. Almost daily, I was approached with things that were not part of my training. Rather than throwing a fit because of how unfair it was, I had to take things as they came. Organization and planning are not my strong suits, but I can think on my toes, and that proved to be valuable.
Self-care is not selfish
It was easy to take the weight of everything and put it on my own shoulders. That was a good way to drive myself crazy. I was the best leader I could be when I started respecting myself. Taking the time to do what is important for your own mental health indirectly benefits those you lead.
As the president of a sorority, I did not face anywhere near the worst of what this pandemic has had to offer. However, I felt the challenges of the unknown every single day. It was not the term I hoped for, but it taught me more than I ever imagined. Even if it wasn’t what I would deem “successful,” I know that one day I will use what I learned to be undeniably so.
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