By Len La Rocca
The Office of Student Involvement’s Fraternity and Sorority Life discussed the price of being a leader at its event, “The Leader That Could And Did” on Thursday, April 18 at 8 p.m. in the Brower Student Center Room 216.
Student leaders and leaders-in-training gathered to soak in tips as they gear up to tackle the future obstacles involved with organizational leadership. Jessica Snell, the interim coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Aimee Wardle, the assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority life, presented on how to maneuver and plan events as an organization’s leader.
The two speakers began by telling students to take note of the good habits of the leaders in their own lives, as well as areas where they need improvement, and learn from their mistakes.
“I’ve had people do it well for me and I’ve had people do it not so well for me, but I still look up to them,” Wardle said. “It’s really important to look at … not the great things and kind of figure out how you would’ve done it differently.”
Snell and Wardle discussed how leadership could be uncomfortable at times, and how crucial it is to get used to feeling this way.
“Practice things that make you uncomfortable,” Wardle said. “I know Jess mentioned that she wasn’t comfortable with public speaking — so was I.”
Being uncomfortable is one of the prices of leadership, Wardle explained. She found that through practice, she was able to push past the awkwardness and succeed in situations that made her nervous, such as speaking in front of an audience or having to fire an employee.
“I was like, alright, I have to work on this, put myself out there in an uncomfortable position, be afraid to clam up and sweat in front of people,” Snell said.
Understanding that no one is perfect was a crucial point made by the presenters. They emphasized the need to be able to improve through constructive criticism.
“Be open to feedback and criticism and use it to grow,” Wardle said. “This is a big key one. I hate confrontation and I lumped criticism in with that when I was in college. I was just like, ‘I don’t wanna hear what you have to say because it’s gonna make me feel (like) I’m doing a crappy job.’ In reality it’s that you’re doing a good job and here’s how you can do something better.”
The word ‘no’ and its application to a leadership lifestyle was another subtle key to sustaining success, according to Wardle.
“Know that it’s okay to say the word ‘no,’” she said. “You do not have to say ‘yes’ to everything. At some point you will learn … you will burn yourself out so quickly.”
Wardle showed the students in the audience that saying ‘no’ can be articulated lightly and effectively. She explained that by simply declining a task and realizing the amount of work one person can handle, the leader is not letting others down, but is instead delegating work when appropriate.
“TCNJ students are usually so over-involved and, while it’s a really great thing … we tend to burn out,” Snell said.
The students in the audience found Wardle and Snell’s advice about being a strong and effective leader to be inspiring.
“It taught me that you don’t have to be the loudest person in the room to make a difference,” said Casey Hendrickson, a junior communication studies major.
While most success stories begin from the bottom, the duo sent the crowd on its way with the advice to climb the ladder to leadership opportunities.
“Look for opportunities to advance yourself and your organization,” Snell said. “Whether you have a title or anything, look for ways to advance — always finding new ways to push an organization, but also yourself as a professional.”