T.J. Sullivan

Let them see you working

I recently had a conversation with a student who was just elected as president of his college’s Student Government Association.  He asked me, very simply, what one best piece of advice I had for him.

“Let them see you working.”

The temptation for many visible student leaders is to enjoy the comfortable new office that comes with the position.  It’s remarkably easy to disappear into endless meetings and behind the scenes tasks.

A better use of your time – most of the time – is to get out of your office and get out on campus.  Be seen.  Let people see you working.

I’m not talking about kissing babies and making speeches.  Don’t always seek attention and act like the visiting big shot. I’m talking about being visible and participating, without any expectation of special treatment. Be part of the campus you were just elected to lead!

Find out what student organizations are hosting events this week, and show up to participate.  Donate to the fundraisers; pick up a hammer at the service projects; lend support at their tables in the Student Union.

Invite yourself to the executive committee meetings of different groups, even if you only stay for the first 15 minutes.  Ask them questions about their issues.  Float ideas by them that your group is considering and solicit their opinions, positive and negative.

Make yourself visible on campus as the weather gets warmer.  Attend intramural games.  Eat lunch in the cafeteria or food court, not in your office (what good does that do?).  Don’t wait for the student newspaper to come to you. Go to the newsroom and spend time with the reporters and editors in their natural habitat.

Go to the fraternity and sorority philanthropy events, even if you’re not a member of one of their groups.  When the culturally-based group throw an event, make an appearance.  Go listen to the speakers who come to campus.  When the performance based groups do a show, buy a ticket and show up to support them.

If you are the leader of the student body, then get out there and interact with it.  Your office should be one of the last places people should expect to see you. A boss who sits in his corner office and enjoys the perks and prestige loses sight of what’s really going on down on the factory floor.

Get out there.  Walk around, talk to people, listen to people.  I promise it will shape how you lead.  For an effective student leader, it’s all about getting your hands dirty and pursuing relentless involvement with those you lead.

10 Responses to “Let them see you working”

  1. Paul Stafiej says:

    I completely agree with the phrase of “Let them see you working.” Being someone who has been involved at the University of Southern Mississippi for the past four years I have been around a lot of leaders who have fallen short in this area. Some tend to disappear and only reappear for an event that makes them look good in public. However, when it comes to just basic work and interaction such as pick up a hammer at the service projects or lending support at their tables in the Student Union they are no where to be seen. In my opinion in order to be a great student leader I agree with this blog, get out there. Walk around, talk to people, listen to people. It definitely shapes how one leads. For any effective student leader that I have seen or work with, they have gotten their hands dirty and pursued relentless involvement with those they led.

    Paul Stafiej
    University of Southern Miss

  2. Meredith says:

    I think this is a great point to be made. People respect a servant leader, and one that is involved and personal much more than just a prestigious figure. I would have a hard time respecting someone who is simply always ‘too busy’ to care about those he or she is representing.

  3. Rachael says:

    This blog makes alot of good points. The best leaders that I have ever followed have been more than willing to come to any event or participate in any service. If I want someone to continue to be a leader they have to show me why they should.continue as a leader. If I have to.vote on someone im going to vote for the person that has shown me that they are a hard worker. They both might work equally hard, but im going to choose the one that I have witnessed their work. This blog has alot of useful tips for people who are trying to be good leaders!

  4. USM Maley says:

    I definitely agree with the, “it’s all about getting your hands dirty and pursuing relentless involvement with those you lead” statement; however, I think you may start flirting with the line of “over-programming”. Many of our chapters are feeling that sense of “over-programming” right now. There are ways to try to work around this/to lighten the load, but not everyone has figured out what works best for their chapter yet. Having been a Council President, I tried to attend everything for other chapters and the university that I oculd, but I also stretched myself really thin. I will say when dealing with other leaders, I appreciate and respect those that are humble and involved more.

  5. Elizabeth R. Southern Miss says:

    I completely agree. As a leader of an organization, it is always good when your members know who you are. When they know you, they feel more comfortable approaching you. As a VP within my sorority, I try and make myself as accessable as possible. The directors under me know that I am always here to assist them. Having an open door policy helps your chapters run smoother and more affectively in my opinion.

  6. Elizabeth, please be sure to see my earlier blog about “open door policies.” LOL


  7. Chelsie Southern Miss says:

    That is a great point! When I look observe leaders, the first thing grabs my attention about them is if they are visible around campus. Before I chose to be apart of my sorority, that is something that I evaluated about the members.

  8. USM 708814 says:

    I really like this post. I have been participating in many group projects this semester and we do not seem to be able to get started. After reading this I’am just going to let them see me working and hope that they will follow. Also within my organization I have noticed that when people see you working a few will follow and they will create more followers down the line. I like this post and am going to try to lead more than usual by example and let people see me work.

  9. Riley M says:

    As a newly elected student body president I appreciate this piece. A friend just posted it on my fb wall, and I will be sure to pass it along to my new staff. I think I just found a new blog to read!

  10. I love it Riley. Thanks.

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