A few years ago, I would have never thought I was someone who was “leader material.” Those traits were suppressed by my dehabilitating meekness. When I was in elementary school, my father used to go to every single parent-teacher conference saying, “Get Jasmine to talk more,” and “Make her talk in front of the class,” or “Please get her over her shyness.”
In middle school, the same trend continued. Even though I was socially able, I could never muster up the courage to become a leader to my classmates, save for the studious example that I set for them.
Finally, I was a freshman in high school–still the epitome of shyness and silence. I could work in a team, but I could not be a leader. I knew that colleges wanted leadership in one’s activities, but that was yet a skill I lacked. What would I do? Introversion was my specialty, while extroversion eluded me. I knew I needed to change.
Here’s how it all went down (sort of in order):
1. I chose to become a leader in an activity where I felt supported. Out of all my activities, I was involved in a few outside of school. One of my favorites was my volunteer position at a local clinic. There, I was removed from petty high school drama, focused only on being the administrative support in providing healthcare for others. The people there were lovely, kind, and funny. I had developed good rapport with many of my fellow volunteers and felt comfortable being myself there. Similarly, I became a leader at my school in Science Honor Society, a subject I adored. The people in the society were likewise driven. Choosing an activity that you both enjoy and feel supported in allows you to become the best leader possible. Your passion and love for the subject will diffuse to the people you are leading.
2. Before gaining a leadership title, I gained trust. What’s truly important is not the title, but your ability in the activity. If you’re not good at what you’re doing as a member, you won’t be good at leading other members. I became an expert at the clinic. I was thoroughly educated on registration and could easily teach anyone. Everyone knew who to ask when they had questions about registration: me. Learning how to be the best member possible helps in eventually becoming a leader.
3. I worked on my communication skills. As I’ve said before, I always used to be extremely shy. I began to participate more in class discussions, in conversations with people, and in communication at the clinic. Communication skills are the most important leadership skills anyone can have. You need to make sure members understand exactly what is happening and how to do it. The only way to do that? Communication in a strong, kind, polite way.
4. I became more confident. Confidence is power and leadership. Without confidence in yourself, you will not be able to influence others at all. As shy I was before, I worked on putting more power in my voice, my body language, and my manner.
5. I became willing to solve problems. When I was working at registration, many, many problems came up. I had to know exactly who to ask depending on the problem. Would I know the answer? Or would a nurse be able to handle it better? When I took on a leadership role, all of these problems came first to me and I had to ask the same question to myself: Who would be able to answer this question best?
6. I took meticulous notes: in my brain and on paper. I took note of everything that was going on around me and what I should watch out for. I knew what mistakes not to make, and when I made a mistake, I noted the solution. I wrote down all steps necessary for working through certain tasks. Leadership is just like school with more responsibility.
7. I followed previous leaders. I shadowed previous leaders at the clinic and learned from them how to handle the team and how to solve problems that came up. I took note of what they did and ideas of how to improve. In Science Honor Society, I noted problems with the previous year’s administration and how we could improve it in the next year. Knowing where you want an organization or idea to go is vital to improve upon previous administrations. You always need to get better! Leadership is fluid and always changing—it can always be improved upon!
Becoming a leader was tough. I had no idea how I would go about it, but the steps above are how it ended up happening. Even though I did not mean to become a leader, I changed myself, really putting myself out there in an activity I loved, and it ended up working out in my favor. However, even after you campaign hard and try your hardest to be a leader, if it doesn’t work out there are other ways to stay strong in that activity. Good luck leading!