Leadership and Learning to Let Go

8:30:00 AM

In an interview for a fellowship this past semester, I was asked what leadership means to me. My answer was pretty terrible as far as interviews go (and I didn't get the fellowship), but I've been thinking about that question a lot lately.

This past school year, I founded my college's first book club. Let me tell you, it was hard as hell. There's so much admin stuff involved in just establishing a new club, let alone run it once it's approved. And I ended up doing a lot of tasks on my own, especially after our first event happened. My E-Board was comprised of amazing people but none of us took the initiative, and I don't think any of us were passionate or committed enough. It always came down to me to plan and organize and then to just delegate tasks. I had so much on my plate and wasn't really able to dedicate myself to ensuring the club's growth, so it wasn't any one person's fault. It was just a lot for us, and thus, the club floundered for most of the year.

At the end of the year, I was thinking about how to move forward. Honestly, I wanted to call it quits and just not reactivate/recharter the club for next year. But of course I brought this up to my E-Board, and they quickly disagreed. They saw the potential growth that was still there for the club and reminded me of it too. In my frustration, I had become blind to the potential. But then came the hard part...

Patrick Tomasso
For some E-Board members, stepping down was easy. Others were more than happy to stay on board. Some club members were willing and eager to take up club responsibilities. But I had to evaluate my own place and role. As the founder and first president of the club, of course I want to see the club flourish and succeed, and I knew that I would always have some form of ownership over the book club. At the same time, I knew that I wasn't committed enough to see the club through, although I didn't want to admit it. I had felt weighed down by the responsibility of running anything this past year, but I thought that perhaps with a better E-Board, all of it could be turned around. However, I also knew that my fall semester would be my hardest one yet and that I shouldn't keep this responsibility. Plus, as I mentioned in my sophomore year reflection post, I'll be choreographing for my dance team next year.

It was hard for me to let go and step down, but the book club deserves more than I can give it at the moment. I offered to take a lower position, but we just had a meeting recently, and I realized that all the positions were filled. I looked at next year's E-Board and only felt a huge sense of relief, though. The new E-Board is comprised of amazing, committed people. They are passionate and willing to put in the time and effort we didn't this year. Realizing there wasn't a spot for me felt like a punch to the gut initially, but I also realized that it was the best decision for the Book Club.

This club isn't just me. It hasn't been since after I chartered the club, got it approved, and got it running. Sometimes, being a good leader is about being able to see your own weaknesses. It means recognizing the talents and leadership of others. It means knowing when to step up and also when to step away. It's trusting others and leaving them with the tools they need to succeed and thrive. Being a good leader means trusting people to take your place and knowing when it's time to let that happen.

I will still have a place in the Book Club. I'm still the founder. I still want to see it grow. I know that it can't happen under my leadership, but I can still support it any way that I am able. And letting that be my role now is both right for the club and for me. I've let go, and I hope that means that I've been a decent leader. I can't wait to see what the club that I started becomes.

What does leadership mean to you?

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Header photo credit: Brooke Lark

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