What I wish I knew

by David Stollman

Three things I wished I had known before becoming a student leader:

Please & Thank You:
Personally connecting with someone to ask for their help can make all the difference between yes and no. Don’t just ask anyone; identify someone who will be a key element to your success. This makes them important, and you smart enough to know it!

Thank You
Go old school: Flowers, handwritten notes, and small thoughtful tokens of appreciation. First, remember flowers ALWAYS work. Send flowers to every sorority on their founding date. Classy. Send flowers to your advisor on their birthday, or send your advisor’s wife/husband/partner flowers thanking them for sharing so much of your advisor’s time helping you.

Invest in a box of personalized Thank You cards from your organization, and maybe even set up a charge account with the local florist.

Will you help?
You can turn your worst critic into your strongest ally by asking them for help. Look at the faculty member that says Greeks take away from the academic mission of the university, and meet with them. Ask for their help to advise you as a student leader to change it. Don’t argue with them about whether they are right or wrong; ask for their assistance to make things better. Challenge them to “put up or shut up” by valuing their opinion enough to give them influence on your plans. They can’t complain about things anymore if they were given the chance to make it better.

Go to the local police, mayor or county commissioner and ask them for help finding a way to make the streets cleaner, safer or less noisy at night. Find out what neighbors are complaining and ask THEM for their help in your efforts to make things better.

You can’t complain about everyone being “out to get the Greeks” if you aren’t willing to go meet your critics and listen to their concerns. You might find out they really do hate you. Fine. At least you, and they, know you tried to make it better. And, then… maybe they’ll hate you a little less.

Sorry, I was wrong.
Authenticity and vulnerability breed credibility. Be honest and own your mistakes. Don’t offer excuses or place blame on others. We respect those that are strong enough to know they aren’t perfect and don’t try to act like they are. As long as admissions are paired with genuine commitments to improvements, they are not a sign of weakness, they are a signs of authenticity and strength. This is especially true as the leader of a team. The best leaders both take more blame and share more credit than they deserve.

David works with hundreds of student leaders each year, encouraging them to be the best they can and to demand the same from their organization. He pulls from his many leadership experiences—being an IFC President, chapter advisor for Alpha Sigma Tau sorority at New York University for over 10 years, serving the NIC and co-founding CAMPUSPEAK, HazingPrevention.org, and the leading recruitment program, Recruitment Boot Camp.

David tells it how it is, and your students will gain the confidence to be a great leader.

Visit campuspeak.com/stollman to learn more about David and his keynotes.