Receiving the Torch of Leadership

Jamie Drahos, Manager of Club Sports, Intramurals and Sports Camps

How to transition into an officer role of your student organization.

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Whether this is your first formal leadership role, or an extension of a previous role, get ready to embrace the learning curve that comes with it.  Being an officer of your student organization is a fun, challenging, and problem-solving opportunity that will not only impact your own MIT experience, but also that of your peers.

Tools for a smooth transition include a combination of written documentation, informal conversations, and formal meetings.  By keeping these 10 tips in mind, you will have a smoother transition into your new leadership role.

1. There Are No Silly Questions

This is a brand-new position for you, so don’t feel that you should automatically know all the answers.  Ask questions, ask a lot of questions.  Take note of the answers so you can refer back to them in the future.  Ask the outgoing officers, ask your fellow officers, ask club members, and ask staff members on campus.

2. Basic Foundation

Chances are good that your club has a constitution in place outlining basics such as officer roles, responsibilities, membership eligibility, voting procedures, and the mission of the club.  Dig this up and share it with your fellow officers.  If it doesn’t exist, work with your officers to establish one (samples available through the Association of Student Activities).

3. Own Your Role

Use your club’s constitution as a starting place to determine your primary duties within the club.  Ideally, the previous person in your role documented details of the role for you.  If your role is new or previously undocumented, work with your fellow officers to put it in writing.  No matter what time of year you start your role, find out what you will be focusing on during the first 1-2 months.  Hold yourself accountable to your role.

4. The Larger Picture

Most student organizations fall under a larger umbrella.  Examples include the Association of Student Activities (ASA), Graduate Student Council (GSC), Club Sports Council (CSC), Interfraternity Council (IFC), Panhellenic Association (Panhel), or Living Group Council (LGC).  Find out which one(s) your group is part of.  Then learn what resources they can provide and what expectations they have of your organization.

5. Say What You Mean, and Mean What You Say

Clear, consistent communication done in a timely manner is a key to running a successful organization.  Two way channels of communication are likely to include:

Officer <-> officer

Officer <-> members

Officer <-> potential members

Officer <-> former members

Officer <-> executive councils

Officer <-> other stakeholders (alumni, sponsors, coaches, etc)

Officer <-> administrative office/staff

Be aware of who you are communicating with and be open to hearing their perspective when brainstorming and problem solving.

6. Things Change

Verify past practice before taking action.  Just because your club did something last year doesn’t mean that the process is identical again this year.  Rather than making an assumption, quickly verify the necessary steps and then plan accordingly.

7. Immediately, Soon, and Later

To help you balance your academic load and your other commitments on campus, it’s important to get a good understanding of the timeline and important dates related to your position.  Find out if there are certain times of the year when your position will be more heavily relied upon so you can manage your time accordingly.

8. Serve Your Members

Your role plays an important function within your club.  Part of that includes soliciting input from your members as decisions need to be made, and seeking help from them for larger tasks/events.  Ask members what expectations they will have of you.  As a leader of your organization, don’t forget to keep your members up to date on club activities, priorities, and goals. 

9. Have A Vision

Give thought to what you enjoy most about this club, share that with your fellow officers, and let that shape your goals for the club.  Are there new initiatives you’d like to suggest?  Are there particular areas that will require attention within the next year?  How can your strengths contribute to the organization as a whole?  Answering these types of questions will help you be an impactful leader of your club and having a lasting impression on your MIT experience!

10. It Takes A Village

Become aware of which offices on campus are in place to support your student organization.  Examples of these include the Student Activities Office (SAO), the Office of Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups (FSILG), or the Club Sports Office (DAPER).  Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to the staff within these offices and reach out to them when you hit a roadblock. 

Conclusion

You’ll find that being a leader of your organization will be a challenging, rewarding, continuous learning experience.  Don’t worry if you don’t think you fully understand how everything works right away.  But don’t wait for the information to come to you; seek it out and then put it to good use!

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