Here's a true story...
Sally (I changed the name) was our yearbook editor. She was fun-loving, easy to work with, and confident. Throughout the year, she would give update reports to the executive student leadership team about her progress on the book. When the end of the year came and summer arrived, she stated that she'd have the whole book turned in within a week.
At the beginning of the next school year, the new Student Government President and I sat down to talk about the plans for the upcoming year. He asked me when the yearbook would be arriving. I told him to call our yearbook company and check on the shipping date.
He came back into my office a few moments later. Our yearbook company had received NOTHING from our school.
Unfortunately for us, the previous year's yearbook editor did not return to school. As we worked to solve the mystery, one thing became increasingly clear:
This student had become overwhelmed with her responsibilities and was fearful of asking for help because she felt like people would think she was incapable.
As I stated in the second part of this series, some student leaders will never reach out and ask someone else for help. And it makes me wonder...why?
Here's some of the reasons why I think students will choose to face failure rather than facing the fact that they need help:
Insecurity - When a student accepts a student leader position, he wants to be perceived as a student leader. He wants people to think that he's capable of accomplishing all of the things that the position requires. But doing all of the tasks simply makes him a student worker. The reality is, he's not a student leader until he gets others involved. A student leader doesn't have to be able to do everything...he just needs to find the right people to accomplish the tasks.
Naiveness - Sometimes, a student leader won't realize all of the things that a position will require of her. She just thinks it will be fun. She doesn't realize that every position requires a price to pay in order to be able to play. If a student leader pays on the front end, she'll be better able to play on the back end. But if she plays up front...she'll have to pay at some point. And the cost keeps going up throughout the year. Simply ignoring a problem or deadline doesn't make it go away.
Ego/Arrogance - The term "student leader" infers that the one who is leading is also a student. That means that the leader is a learner. If a leader stops learning, the leader stops leading. A student leader who refuses to ask for help may be suffering from an overinflated ego. Even though a student leader NEEDS help, he may be reluctant because he doesn't want to look HELPLESS. But failing to ask is just asking to fail.
Past Betrayal - I'll be the first to admit that it's often easier to simply do things yourself. A student leader may have asked someone for help in the past and that person let her down. But that's how it goes sometimes. Rather than give up on people, why not learn how to spot better, potential leaders? Take the time to learn from the experience and create systems that help to keep people accountable and intrinsically motivated.
Not Sure Who To Ask - Sometimes a student leader won't ask for help because he doesn't see anyone whom he feels is capable. That's okay. One of the first things a student leader must decide is what are the things that only he should do. Then he can work toward delegating the other tasks and getting others involved. Is there someone whom you can train? Perhaps you need to look outside of your circle of friends? Have you asked your advisor whom he or she would recommend? If a student leader doesn't think anyone is qualified, he may have to reevaluate what he's asking for or his own perception of people.
Hopefully, you're beginning to understand that asking for help is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be the best thing you do as a student leader. What is it that scares you about asking for help? Is it the word itself - help?
Looks like I need a part four to this thing. Next up...how to ask for help without saying the word - help.