Student Leaders

5 Lies (Student) Leaders Believe

Yesterday was our day of campus-wide leadership training.

It’s a time when we bring together all of the students leaders of varying student groups across campus for some shared training and team building.

For the day, we set aside the planning and preparation for our specific areas to recognize that we — as leaders — are not alone on campus. There are others who aspire to similar heights, and face many of the same challenges that we do.

From year to year it’s never quite the same — and I think this year might have been one of our best efforts!

Personally, I had the chance to co-present to our student leadership population of 350+ about the lies many leaders believe. Many of these lies were identified by different student leaders who have seen them — in some shape or fashion — played on within the student leadership culture on our campus.

So I wanted to share them here, with you, believing that there are some of your leaders who might be struggling with — and leading out of — one (or more) of these lies.

1. I have done this before, so I know all I need to know.

These leaders tend to struggle to come back early for times of training. They believe that their previous experiences have provided them all of the knowledge and skill base that they will need to be successful in the upcoming year. They are not teachable, which will likely lead to tension and/or conflict in their coming season of leadership

TRUTH: The best leaders are lifetime learners. They recognize that they have not yet arrived, and still have plenty to learn. They tend to take initiative in their ongoing leadership development, and even seek out regular opportunities to sit with leaders who are older and wiser.

2. I have a title, therefore I have influence.

This leader tends to believes that their position awards them automatic voice into the lives of the people they lead. They tend to believe that others will want to hear what they have to say — or that they should want to hear what they have to say. This leader can easily grow frustrated when they sense others aren’t asking for, listening to, or taking their advice.

TRUTH: Influence is earned through our willingness to serve. Titles will grant us a small window of opportunity to speak into the lives of others, but if we don’t use that window wisely, then we might find ourselves with a leadership position, but no one to lead.

3. The more I commit to, the better leader I am.

This leader believes that a full schedule = a great leader, and an overflowing calendar = an even better leader. They tend to seek out, and take on, just about every opportunity they can find. This leader has a hard time saying no to opportunities because they fear how it might look to others — like they’re weak, incapable, or unable to do something. They can often be found running from one meeting to the next (to the next, to the next…), proudly wearing their exhaustion like a badge of honor.

TRUTH: Good leaders set (and keep) healthy boundaries. This is such a hard thing for most of us in leadership to adhere to. But in order for us to be good leaders, we have to be available — both mentally and physically — to those we have been called to serve. As we create and keep the margin in our lives, it allows for us to be replenished and refreshed on a regular basis — therefore positioning us to be better used in the lives of others.

4. I don’t have to do menial tasks, I’m above that.

This leader believes that “real leaders” live at 30,000 feet — the details, or the unimportant tasks, are for others. This leader struggles to do things that are considered “behind the scenes” — they want to be seen and get credit for their work. These leaders often fail to show up early to help with set up, and opt to leave early in order to avoid clean up.

TRUTH: You either lead by example, or lose your ability to influence. The successful leader will be one that recognizes the significance of rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty with everyone else. They understand that no job is beneath them — and they shouldn’t ask anyone to do something that they themselves would not be willing to do.

5. I have it all together. I’m good, I’m fine.

This leader tends to believe that showing weakness, or admitting to struggles, will disqualify them as a leader. They often miss the opportunity to get help when issues are small — which allows it to grow into something much larger. This leader tries to put on an outer veneer that makes it look like they have everything together, regardless of how chaotic and out-of-control they might feel on the inside.

TRUTH: Leaders have limitations. When we can recognize our limitations — and live and lead from within them — our leadership will be much more effective. Those who lead us know that we’re not perfect — and they (hopefully) don’t expect it from us. Successful leaders will gain A LOT of respect for being willing to say “no” to other opportunities — in order to better fulfill the roles and responsibilities they have already committed to. Likewise, healthy leaders will ask for assistance — from their peers, and from those who lead them — in order to be as effective and successful as possible.

So there you go! Five lies leaders believe.

I’m curious:

What does this look like in your ministry context?

Some of these lies may be applicable, but your specific context may very well breed its’ own set of lies that can sidetrack — and even derail — some of the best leaders.

And I put the word student in parenthesis in the title, understanding that students are not the only ones prone to believing and leading out of a lie.