It’s Thursday night in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It’s August, smack dab in the middle of welcome week. As a student, you have had more pizza, koozies, and croakies given to you than you can carry. The flier you received from Cru is leading you and your two friends to wander around campus trying to find the Animal Science building. Walking in the doors, you are greeted by random students and awkwardly small talk. At 8:00, a student kicks open the doors and belts “Welcome to Cru!” You walk in, sit down and listen to two students give vision, the worship team sing a few songs, and the leader of Cru share the gospel and explain what he hopes God will do. As you leave you will reflect on how the meeting went. At some point in the next week, you will consider, “Do I want to go back to Cru Thursday night?”
This same question is the question that consumed my mind for the first month on campus. This fall was my first year at Oklahoma State Cru and I was asked to lead the weekly meeting. As I processed the implications, my number one fear was that I was going to fail in creating a weekly meeting that students wanted to come back to. Wrestling with the idea that my value is dependent on my success, I felt a ton of stress to perform my job well. My response to this stress was the biggest mistake I made during my first semester.
As I worked to plan the weekly meeting, I recruited a team of five students to help me plan and execute the meeting. My mistake was asking them for opinions and then ramming through the planning, details, and execution of the Cru meeting without involving the students again. I showed up to Cru each week, barked out commands and then got frustrated when I felt the student leadership team wasn’t buying into the vision of Cru. After many conversations with many people about this, I realized the error I had made. I talked about empowering students, however when the bullets began to fly, I hoarded the responsibilities and tasks to myself. I apologized to the team and then worked to correct the mistake I made.
Here are 5 Things about Empowering Leaders that I learned:
1. It’s difficult to give up control.
The most difficult part about empowering is that you have to give up control. For me, this involved giving up the idea that I was the only one that could execute the plan well. This also involves accepting that things might not go exactly the way you want. However, giving up control in this manner is vital for the success of any leader.
2. It’s necessary for alignment.
Alignment for any team is vital to its success. However, when one person is the only one calling the shots, it is impossible for the others on the team to be on the same page. You have to delegate and empower those around you to succeed.
3. It takes an intentional focus.
You have to focus on including your team or you never will. The easiest course of action is to do all of the tasks by yourself. What contributed most to my situation was my lack of intentionality to include my team. I didn’t make it a priority.
4. It takes a thought through plan.
Once you are making a point to include others on your team, you have to figure out the details for how you are going to successfully collaborate. For our team, it started with meeting for an hour on Wednesday morning and then coming to Cru an hour before it started to run through the details.
5. If you do it well, it creates organizational alignment.
Once we started meeting as a team and collaborating the plan for each week, the planning of the weekly meeting became easier. We were on the same page, working well to accomplish the vision of the weekly meeting. Something that was frustrating was now a source of joy.
If you are a student leading a team of others, learn from the mistakes I made when I didn’t empower my team. Use these five ideas to help you empower the team around you. If you are able to empower people, your ability to impact your sphere of influence will increase expontentially.