Peer leadership comes with a unique set of challenges. Unlike in the professional world, almost everyone you are leading is within one to four years of your age. At times, you may question your authority to be giving orders or running meetings. The best advice I can offer is to consider yourself a partner — rather than an executive — and remember that anyone can be a leader, regardless of age or experience.
Here are four lessons I learned when it comes to peer leadership:
1. You really are “just like them.”
If the CEO of a big league agency walked into the room and said, “I’m just like you,” would you believe her? Probably not. But if the PRSSA Chapter president says the same thing, you should. It’s important to be relatable and approachable to your members. Thinking like your peers will help you understand how to lead them, and being humble will help them feel comfortable approaching you with questions or new ideas.
Once the officers start thinking they’re above the other members, a divide starts to form, and that divide can be hard to overcome. The leaders who consider themselves members just like everyone else will find they can better anticipate members’ needs and be proactive in meeting them.
2. You won’t always have the answers.
As a Chapter leader, you should be knowledgeable in all things related to your organization. If you aren’t familiar with PRSSA, read up as much as you can to prepare for member questions. With that said, no one has all the answers, not even the CEO. It’s OK not to know everything. Just know how to ask smart questions and surround yourself with smart people. Even if you don’t have the answer, you should know someone who does.
3. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
One of my biggest mistakes as a Chapter leader was trying to do most of the work on my own. If you try to do it all on your own, you will burn out. While it can be hard to put some major assignments in the hands of your fellow leaders, let go and trust them. Also, don’t save all the glamorous projects for yourself. Sharing the fun assignments is a selfless act and can make your fellow leaders more willing to do some less glamorous tasks in return for a few fun ones.
4. You must have patience.
You are not leading a corporation, and PRSSA membership is not a nine–to-five job. This means some things will take longer to achieve than you would like. People will miss meetings, executives will turn assignments in late, and most people won’t immediately reply to the email you sent at 11 p.m. Plan ahead as much as you can, and be patient while things come together.
What advice do you have for fellow PRSSA leaders?