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For many, a student society is simply some pursuit that they may dabble in to pass the time during their university years. However, for the few that know the true potential of a society, it is a grand opportunity; a nursery for knowledge, experience, and connections.
Even fewer are those ambitious enough to pursue their leadership – to be responsible for marshalling their own committee, and to be accountable to its hundreds or even thousands of members.
Given that you have chosen to read this article, you are probably of the latter group, and are seeking an answer to the question “How do I become President?” To which I present two options.
First and foremost there is the easy option, to found your own student society. There are no real hurdles to this approach and no responsibilities to inherit, but provides you with a definitive option to carve your own vision for your society. However, the scope of your vision will be limited by the lack of resources available at your disposal. The true challenge to this option will be in its survival into the years or decades that may come.
The second option is to struggle to the top of an existing society, to prove your worth and to participate in the continuation of its chronicle. This is the option for those who are not afraid of a challenge, not afraid of responsibilities, and not afraid to be in competition. The rewards of success will provide you with the artillery necessary to sculpt a grander vision that will make an impact and leave a legacy.
It is this second option that I shall share some further guidance.
1. “Get stuck in”
I echo the words that my former headmaster, Dr Marincowitz, had declared in my first assembly of secondary school, and which has stood as an unwavering pillar of thought ever since.
At the very dawn of your years in university, you must get involved with all opportunities that interest you. These opportunities could be to become a student representative of your department, or to partake in an academically recognised student committee.
Involving yourself in these opportunities and in other societies of different areas will provide you with a wide breadth of experiences and connections. More importantly, you will develop transferable experiences in leadership, ones which provide an unparalleled upper edge not just in leading a society, but also in leadership positions beyond university.
2. Establish your goal
To truly excel in something requires one to understand their own motives, particularly in their pursuit of accomplishment and fulfilment. There is a Japanese concept known as Ikigai, a phrase meaning “a reason for being”. This concept relates to the inception of goals in that it is not simply about where you want to be, but what you want to make of it.
In establishing this central goal, you can segment it into a personal and a societal goal. The former could be to establish the necessary experience for a future enterprise. A sentiment shared by Michael Tyrimos is “the invaluable lesson on the similarities that a student society and an actual business could have in common.” The latter could be to perform a civic duty to support fellow students, such as that of the King’s Business Club.
In any case, establishing these decisive goals allows you to gauge your own performance and to maintain sight of what is most important.
3. Respect your society
Hold respect for the values of the society, its committee, and its members. In doing so you will garner respect in return. I quote an anecdote from Dale Carnegie’s book:
“Benjamin Franklin, tactless in his youth, became so diplomatic, so adroit at handling people, that he was made Ambassador to France. The secret of his success? ‘I will speak ill of no man,’ he said, ‘… and speak all the good I know of everybody.’ Any fool can criticise, condemn and complain – and most fools do.
“But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Command of diplomacy and respect are the building blocks of leadership and the steps towards achieving your goals. By that means you will uncover the hidden avenues of opportunities available to you and develop an appreciation for the people around you and the work that they do.
Above all else, as Sir Richard Branson put it, “you should dream big and set yourself seemingly impossible challenges. You will then have to catch up with them.” Facing your challenges will be the foundations of your most valuable lessons and will help you achieve the impossible.
I write this article with the aim of shedding some light on this subject matter, having shared some advice that has been built upon my own experiences. However, It is now up to you to make of that what you will, but it is in my sincerest hope that my advice will help to inspire and distil the leaders of the future, and for as many to achieve their greatest potential.
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