To be a good leader you need to weave together a fine quilt of many different personal qualities, talents, and skills. When you use all of the threads that you possess you create a masterpiece of achievement. I look at leadership being an analogous term with guidance. To be a good leader is to guide without stepping on toes.
Some of the main qualities a leader should possess and be strong in are:
I. Listening Skills
According to Adler and Towne from Interpersonal Communication, there are many different types of listeners. Many RAs fall into the following categories, which one are you?
• A pseudo listener is someone who pretends to be listening when they are really thinking about all the other things they have to do.
• A selective listener is someone who only listens to the parts of a conversation that interests them and they discard everything else.
• An insulated listener is someone who hears only what he or she wants to hear.
• An insensitive listener is someone who doesn’t listen well enough to understand the whole message. They do not look for hidden meanings and they only look on the surface. AS A RA BE CAREFUL HERE!
• A stage hog is someone who is only interested in their own ideas and is not willing to collaborate and use other people’s thoughts.
Instead of falling into these traps, try to become an active listener. If you are an active listener you give the person you are listening to a chance to tell his or her story. You should also try to understand as deeply as possible what the person is trying to say and feel. Active listening is also achieved by responding to a person in ways that convey your understanding of their side.
Some tips to become an effective listener
• Find areas of interest
• Judge content, not delivery
• Hold your fire!
• Listen for ideas
• Be flexible
• Work at listening
• Resist distractions
• Exercise your mind
• Capitalize on speed of thought
(Above taken from Are You Listening? by Ralph A. Nichols and Leonard A. Stevens)
If you do not know if you are a good listener think about how some of your family and friends would rate your skills. You are most likely a different kind of listener when you are talking with your best friend, supervisor, or parents. The best criticism is your own. Be truthful!
You might be asking yourself, in what ways do I need to encourage my residents? Encouraging your residents to follow college policy and community standards on your floor is a good way to start. Another way is to make sure once a week you talk to each of your residents and ask them about their week. If you are aware that someone is having a bad day, you can leave them a heart-warming note on their message board. Make sure that you always stay positive, especially when talking to your residents about difficult issues. Encouraging others is often difficult to do when you are not being motivated yourself. Make sure you take “ME” time and keep yourself healthy. A leader always needs to be on their toes and that is not possible if he or she is not feeling their best.
You can be the best RA in the world, but if you are not approachable, then why bother! If residents have a problem they will not come to you if you always put up a front. Try to let down your guard as much as possible so that residents can voice their concerns to you in an open manner.
Communication with others is a very important skill for leaders to possess. Communication is the key to success in relationships! If a resident comes to you with a problem and you do not share the same viewpoint as them, you still need to keep a positive attitude with them because if you do not, they might say things about you that would make others think that you are unapproachable. Think before you speak!
Most people believe that the main job of a leader is to make all the decisions. While decision-making is very important, it is not a one-man band. When making an important decision on your floor, encourage your residents to give their input. Some decisions, on the other hand, may require you to be completely independent of your floor and take the initiative. A good leader cannot be shy and reserved when it comes to discussing the issues that pertain to important decisions to be made. If you have something to say, say it proud and strong and with grace. This will show others that you are refined and that they should listen to what you have to say.
The common theme throughout this discussion is the ability for a leader to possess excellent communication skills. These skills should be used to improve your listening skills, ability to encourage, willingness to be approachable and decision-making. Good luck this year with your communities!
Submitted by Susan Marie Tomchak, Resident Assistant, Elizabethtown College