Why college leaders fail

Hypothetical situation. Let’s say your best friend comes to you. You have known this person your entire life. You want them to stand by you in your wedding. You will name your kids after them. You love them more than your family sometimes. This best friend, they tell you they want to take up the art of tattooing. As a matter of fact, they managed to somehow get their hands on a few of the necessary tools. If you come over to their place right now, they will give you a free tattoo!

How many people reading this would go?

None I am guessing. Because that is insanity. It is insane to think that you would get a tattoo from someone who just started doing that. Very few sane, rationale people would trust someone who just started a new hobby to put such a long-term mark on their body.

That is a crazy idea.

So, why do we expect it to work in our organizations?

What, you might be saying? How do tattoos relate to what we are doing in our organizations?

Well, I know you are not tattooing your organization. But you are leaving a mark on your organization. And this is where we mess up.

We Have Trust Problems

Often when I work with college students, I hear the same thought. People get elected to a position and they are excited about their role. The opportunity to lead excites them. They have been given power and responsibility and now, all of a sudden, they are going to chase their passions.

The first meeting comes, people jump in to talk, and the newly elected leader stands up. They tell everyone their plan for the year, they talk about goals, they have a huge rally speech and then, no one else gets excited. Even when the plan sounds foolproof, no one fully invests in it. All of a sudden, they have no clue why no one wants to follow them.

Now, time for the analogy.

Leadership is an art form. Just like tattooing. You wouldn’t trust someone without any experience giving tattoos to do their first tattoos on you. You also wouldn’t likely trust someone who has never proven themselves as a leader to lead your organization.

Here is the most frustrating point I see for most college students.

They have leadership experience. In some way or other. We elected them for a reason, or they are seeking a position because they care. About their cause and organization. About their role and what they can accomplish. They are passionate. But the people around them don’t know this.

Proving your Experience

You have to prove your experience to them; you have to be able to show off you know how to lead them and will help the organization succeed. Any leader, which is everyone trying to create change in their organization, they need to have a connection to the people they are trying to lead.

If you want to create change in your organization, connect with the people around you.

Well, how do you do that?

Leadership isn’t just an art form it is also a highly personal thing. People connect with art because it resonates with them on an emotional level before any logic is involved. You like music because of the way it makes you feel. The same is true of leaders.

Building Connections

If leadership is personal, why do we so often forget to build relationships first? Instead of jumping into your upcoming meetings by telling people what YOU are passionate about and what YOUR plans are for your role. Talk to them first. Connect with them.

Find out what it is they love. Incorporate them into your plan and make sure they feel like they have a meaningful role in what you are doing.

As leaders, as people, we are passionate. But passion is not enough to make a good artist or a good leader. You have to have a following, people who invest in your work and who resonate with your ideas. Only when you have built up your following, then you can rely on these people to support your vision because it is not just your vision it is also theirs.

You are passionate. So is everyone else. To succeed in making your organization better, or even just accomplishing your goals, you need to have people supporting you.

To get those people to support you they need to trust your experience and love your vision.

Accomplishing this means creating a connection with them. Once you invest in other people’s passions, you have the power to change the world.

Credit // Author: Tim Mousseau

Learn more about Tim Mousseau and his keynotes at campuspeak.com/mousseau. You can also follow him on Twitter at @timmousseau.