Written by Oakley Weddle
When I was a little kid, my whole class would fight tooth and nail to be the line leader. Amongst all the jobs available at such a young age, the line leader was the most noble – it was a coveted position. Almost as much as the special edition Silly Bandz that adorned our wrists, and we exchanged like pirates and gold. As the line leader, the teacher sees your hard work first, your classmates look up to you, and you have the tiniest sliver of control. What more could a kid ask for!?
PRSSA’s recruitment theme for this year is “Follow the Leaders”: a familiar phrase coined by the national organization to encourage interested college students to learn from the best of the best.
I wasn’t much of a leader until well into my teenage years. Once I started to find my place in the world, I discovered that many leaders amongst my peers were taking an approach different from what I prefer. Eventually, I took the first (and best) opportunity to lead a group – teaching theatre to elementary and middle school kids. Dance, music, acting, and putting together a production. Being in a leadership position, I discovered that leading wasn’t just being the person who stands at the front of the group and talks – that’s merely forty percent. The other 60 percent is leading by example, connecting people, and actually learning about each member of the group. The human desire to just be heard is insatiable and I discovered, that listening was what sparked that magical quality in humans. How else will leaders know how to push and help their people grow if they don’t know anything about them?!
I’ve been reading a book called “Heart First” by David Grossman, and I am enthralled at the idea of authenticity at the for front of leadership. Grossman is Fellow PRSA, APR, and I had the opportunity to chat with him last May at the PRSSA leadership assembly. His book is a rich read about leading with your heart amidst such a tumultuous and divisive time in our culture. Much of his book revolves around the importance of listening. A leader should be listening just as much (if not more) than they’re talking.
I have a friend in grad school, and on one Monday she spilled oat milk on her kitchen floor, and it splattered over everything in the impact’s proximity. Since then, when she’s having a bad day, she refers to it as an “oat milk Monday.” Having had several opportunities now to be “the line leader,” the confidence to lead comes more naturally. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t overwhelming at times. College is such a volatile time for students, and constantly having the pressure of influencing people is exhausting on those “oak milk Monday” kind of days. When I’m struggling, I lean hard into empathy, listening, and understanding that influence is a two-way street. We can learn so much from other people, we just have to keep an open mind.
It’s not the time to phone in authenticity. It’s time to keep your heart on your sleeve, keep your ears open, and get at the front of the line to lead your pack to success. That’s the stuff of rare special edition Silly Bandz!
I’d love to listen to you and hear about your interest in PRSSA. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can spark a conversation!