What does it take to manage a team as a student?
By Arroy (AJ) Jacob, Staff Writer
It’s not always easy being the student others can turn towards, to confide in, to rely on, all while keeping up with school assignments and exams. It’s not easy being a student leader, but, then again, no one ever said it was.
When I’m not punching out articles with The Reflector, I serve as the President of the Student Society of Science and Technology (SSST), a non-profit club at Mount Royal University (MRU). Although I consider myself a student leader, I will be transparent and admit I’m not sure I can call myself a good one— because I’m not always sure what a good student leader looks like.
To resolve this, I spoke to two mentors of mine, both successful student leaders who have inspired me in my position. We talked about what it means to be a student leader, and what actions you can take when the role becomes challenging. Their advice certainly helped me, and will inspire anyone looking to up their undergraduate game.
What does it take to become a student leader?
Good question. As someone who identifies as one, I can safely say that I have no clue. At least not until I spoke with Katelyn Oszust, MRU’s Student Leadership Coordinator, alumnus, and one of the first presenters at MRU’s inaugural Student Leadership Conference.
Over some coffee, I asked her, “What makes someone a good student leader?” Then I remembered I should be writing this stuff down.
“Leadership and integrity are really synonymous to me,” Oszust says as I scramble to open up my voice recorder app. “Student leaders need to have some form of integrity. If I can’t trust a person’s integrity, then I’m not going to trust them or respect them to lead me anywhere.”
We agreed that student leaders should uphold a strong sense of morale and core values that keep them aligned and well adjusted— that is someone whom your team members will gravitate towards. That’s what people look for.
“Because if you lack integrity, what that tells me is you can’t even lead yourself. And if you can’t lead yourself, then what the hell am I doing following you? Excuse my language.”
After excusing Oszust’s language, I jotted down what she said— what you stand for and how you can keep up your own standards.
She adds to this by saying, “I’m not a huge fan of the whole ‘fake it till you make it,’ but rather, ‘show up till you make it,’ because accountability and showing up [to meetings, to group bonding exercises, etc.] is going to have a tremendous impact on your personal growth.”
What if I’m having doubts?
This is another great question that I also didn’t have the answer to. Not until I entered Diana Grant-Richmond’s office in the Slate Innovation Lab. Another MRU alumnus, Grant-Richmond is an innovator, and a science-enthusiast who personally coached me on leading my executive board with SSST.
Imposter syndrome had been eating me up for a while, so I asked her: “What advice do you have for a student leader who’s trying to get rid of it?”
She sighed and faintly smiled, “Imposter syndrome never goes away. I’m very sad to tell you that. Every single person in government, every CEO, every celebrity deals with imposter syndrome.”
I had forgotten how many times I felt like a fool when leading a team meeting for my club, but I had never heard this perspective before.
“Imposter syndrome is about making it your friend and managing it over time. It’s actually a sign that you’re growing. If you’re dealing with imposter syndrome, it means that you’ve leaned into something that you don’t feel like an expert at, and those are the places in which we grow.”
Grant-Richmond continues as I listen intently, “You can never be an expert, you are always learning. Imposter syndrome will always be there, but you’re still practicing. Whatever is causing it, you will overcome it.” I jotted that advice down in my notebook too.
Don’t let imposter syndrome call you a fool. Only your teammates can do that.
Walking out of Oszust and Grant-Richmond’s interviews with their notes in my hands, I felt a shift in perspective, I started to perceive the term ‘student leader’ very differently. Yes, I can be the student others can turn towards, to confide in, to rely on, all while keeping up with school assignments and exams! I now know a little more of how to own my title as a leader. And, I felt the doubt of never becoming that version of myself slip out of me like a river running off my back. Suddenly, I felt a lot more prepared to run my next SSST meeting.