January 20, 2018

5 Things to do Once You’re Elected to Student Leadership

Congratulations! You’ve been elected to a student leadership role. This can be the chance of a lifetime and you don’t want to blow it. In some cases, the things you experience in your organization – especially as a leader – can be more valuable than the lessons from class. My first piece of advice – HAVE A PLAN. There’s an old saying that goes, “There are three types of people. Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that wonder what happened.” As a leader, your job is to be one of the people that makes things happen. Here are five things you can do once you’re elected to step firmly into your leadership role so you won’t end your term being that third type of person and wondering what happened.

Dave Kelly and Kutztown University Student Leaders

1. Meet with your predecessor

When I do the ‘Officer Transition’ portion of my leadership training programs I ask my audience of student leaders how many actually met, talked with and got anything from their predecessor. Inevitably, very few hands go up.

When taking on their officer roles, new leaders often think that either it’s all going to come naturally or predecessor is going to sit down and talk with them. But often those previous office holders have graduated – or in the case of a community college – may have moved on to a four- year school. When time came to pass on their leadership role they were often focused on their own transition and not that of the new officer. If they’ve put a lot into their leadership role, they’re burned out and don’t have a lot left. So when their attitude is often “here you go it’s all yours.” As the newly elected officer you should take the initiative and find out everything you can from them.

Invite your predecessor to coffee or to just sit and talk so they can pass on to you what you need to know. They should pass on any papers, agendas, minutes, copies of the budget, etc. They should talk to you about things like the funding process that your organization has to go thru to get money from student government.

Those are the type of things that usually are lost in transition if the “old” and “new” officers never talk to each other. Ask every question you have in mind and then ask, “What else do I need to know?” Your job is to encourage the outgoing officer to do an information dump. It will be one of the most valuable meetings you’ll have in your new leadership role. Don’t miss out on the chance if you can make it happen.

Of course, with the technology we have today and social media opportunities, your predecessor is not really that far away!

2. Have a goal-setting session with yourself

Ask yourself, “What do I want to do in my leadership role for this year?” The year is going to go by very fast and it may be the only leadership role you’ll ever have. So to make the most out of it you really need to think about what you want to accomplish. Are you just going to go through the motions, only do what your predecessor did, or come up with your own ideas and your own direction?

You should have some vision for the organization – especially if you are club president – unless the status quo is okay by you. A vision allows you to share it with new members as a recruiting tool. For the organization’s returning members, your vision statement will serve as a retention tool because they’ll see that you have a vision, are taking the org to the next level and they’ll want to continue to be a part of it. Set a vision and then write out the goals you are going to have to achieve to make that vision a reality.

3. Get together with the other officers

Have a meeting or retreat with just the officers or the officers and committee chairs – even if it’s just in the dorm room or common area. Go through what you like and don’t like about the club. Get to know each other. Lead or bring an advisor or outside trainer in to facilitate a team-building exercise. Talk about what you want to accomplish for the year and set a unified vision.

Understand what the roles are that each of you plays in the success of the organization. Pull out a copy of the constitution or bylaws and review with each leader what they are supposed to do. Often students are elected or appointed into leadership roles because they are popular, or that they’ve been an active member and done a good job. But that doesn’t mean they’re prepared for the officer role that they are taking on. This allows everyone to understand their roles and responsibilities and those of their fellow student leaders.

4. Review and update your constitution and/or bylaws

Even though clubs come and go on some campuses the documents often stay on file and when someone wants to restart the club they just submit the names of the officers and forego updating the docs. Make sure your bylaws are current, are relevant to where your organization is today, and that they meet the requirements of the school – especially in terms of diversity. When I was the Georgia District Administrator for Circle K, we had documents on-file at some schools that showed that we were a male-only organization even though that hadn’t been true since 1973.

You don’t want someone to come along and tell you that your group can no longer be recognized because your bylaws violate a campus policy by excluding certain students. Most campuses require you to be inclusive. You basically have to be open to everybody unless you are an honor society, a fraternity or a sorority.

5. Plan to have fun

If leading your campus organization becomes a chore, if it becomes work, if you’re spending more time on it than you are on your studies – then something’s not right. If you are overwhelmed in your leadership role one way to have fun is to delegate some of your responsibilities to other people or find someone to help you in other ways – like an assistant secretary or an assistant chair.

If it’s not fun, it isn’t worth doing and why would you want to? No matter how serious your organization is it should still be fun to be a part of it. Remember, it’s supposed to be a diversion in addition to your studies and an enjoyable part of your student life, If not, you may want to think about whether you want to be in that role – or just as importantly – if the role is properly defined.





Leadership consists of a set of skills, methodologies and ideas that can be taught.

Campus Organization Leadership Training (COLT) by Dave Kelly

Essential and Comprehensive Training for Student Government Associations; Student Leadership Programs; Greek Organizations; Recreational Clubs and Organizations; Academic Clubs and Organizations; Business Clubs and Organizations; International Student Organizations; and every Club, Organization and Student Leader on your Campus! (get more info…)

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About the Author: Dave "Gonzo" Kelly (64 Posts)

Dave Kelly is the leading authority on student leadership and community service on college campuses today. As a professional trainer, motivator, and servant leader, Dave is an expert on all aspects of running and leading campus organizations and developing the character of a servant leader. Dave has 20+ years training leaders and advisors from student government associations, campus activities boards and campus clubs of every kind on organizational leadership and community service projects. He has trained students and advisors at more than 150 different colleges and universities and is the national coordinator for the APCA Serves! Initiative by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.

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