Steps to Becoming an Effective RJ Leader
Posted by Nigel Morton
April 5, 2016
It’s that time of the school year again when campus organizations choose their new leadership. Becoming a campus leader is exciting and slightly intimidating. It’s draining and rewarding. Here are some things I have learned over two years as a campus leader that I think will be extremely helpful for the next wave of reproductive justice leaders.
Realize that a failure doesn’t actually exist.
Students aren’t the only ones making the most of and learning from previous mistakes. Right now, I’m interning for a large women’s issues-centered organization, and on my first day my boss told me that everything they do is made up on the spot. It’s a hard concept to come to terms with. I definitely still struggle with accepting it, but failures are merely a chance to learn what is and isn’t effective.
Learn your strengths and find areas for improvement.
This one ties into the previous point. The only way to learn what you are not so great at is to mess up. If you consistently succeed, then you found a strength. It’s hard to self-examine our own performance. When I took over as president of my campus’s URGE chapter during my sophomore year, I was in an anxiety-ridden frenzy trying to figure out how to rebuild the membership base and increase our involvement and influence on campus. It’s hard, especially as a young person. It takes an incredible amount of patience to learn your own strengths, while also focusing on where you can do better.
Don’t just network.
When you’re trying to find allies and resources for future efforts, don’t just collect business cards. I mean, you definitely want to have someone’s business card, but you also want to make a genuine human connection with them. Get to know the person a little bit. You don’t have to know every detail of their childhood. Exchanging stories on why you’re passionate about fighting for reproductive justice with each other is enough to stick in someone’s mind, so when you reach out in the future for help on something, positive feelings are associated with the idea of working with you.
Ask for help.
After you make a genuine connection with someone who is more than willing to help you as they can, don’t hesitate to ask for help. These contacts reached out to you, most likely, because they appreciate your hard work and would like to see you succeed further. Not only will it help your campaigns and projects be more successful, it also demonstrates a certain maturity in your leadership ability because you are willing to accept that you have a need help and want to make that improvement.
Seriously though, self-care. Self-care is extremely important. The last thing you want to happen to you in the middle of planning a sizable campus event is a burnout. I’ve been there, done that. Passion turns into self-doubt and anxiety, and it’s rough. It’s rough while you’re burning out and when you try to catch up afterwards. You have to learn your personal limits. Learning how to accept your areas for improvement helps, but so does going for a walk or taking a bath. Finding just 30 minutes to slow down, breathe, and organize your thoughts is essential to being able fight for reproductive justice.