Sunday 20 November 2011

10 tips for Youth Leaders

By Andy Tay, The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2011

1. Know your objectives

So you want to make a difference in the world. First, be clear on how your project will contribute. It can be motivated by social justice and the desire for community involvement but it should be underpinned by solid aims.

2. Manage the expectations of your team members

It is important for the project leader to make sure that those joining the team know the commitment and workloads expected of them. It can be frustrating when people drop out halfway because of other work. Evaluate the commitment levels of all potential members and manage their expectations.

3. Be an understanding leader

As the project director, you will naturally feel greater ownership towards the project, but do not expect the same of everyone on your team. Try to understand what the obstacles are but recognise that there is a limit to how far you can motivate others.

4. Help your team members bond

Informal outings are an excellent way to build friendships and are not a waste of time. Design the outings so people do not stick to the same group. Cooperation is important to a project's success.

5. Never hesitate to learn from others

Your first project can be daunting as you may have to do something you have never done before. In that case, find someone who can guide you.

6. Respect your collaborators

In the stress of planning a project, you may neglect the formalities and take your collaborators for granted. Do recognise that they are not obliged to contribute. A nasty encounter with one of my sponsors because of a communication breakdown reminded me of the importance of respecting my collaborators. In fact, I appreciate the 'scolding' I was given.

7. Think big

Challenge yourself. Do not hesitate to think beyond the norm as you may receive unexpected returns for your courage.

8. Be willing to contribute more

As the project leader, you are expected to do more. But how much more? The extra work will depend on how well you delegate tasks and the competence of your team. Just don't keep score. As the leader, you have to shoulder more.

9. Be humble

You may be adept in multi-tasking but make sure you can handle it when you take on a lot. I am juggling at least four voluntary commitments. Though I believe in my ability to fulfil them, I do feel stretched sometimes. It is advisable to concentrate on excelling in a job rather than take on too much and produce substandard work.

10. When you feel like giving up, remember why you've hung on for so long

This is the most important lesson. There will be times when you wonder why you are doing all that work. You may even feel like crying. But before you give up, think of the reasons you took on the project (see first point). Talk to someone when you need to and lean on your team members for support.

The writer, 20, is a first-year bioengineering student at the National University of Singapore. He has led several community projects supporting causes such as the prevention of food wastage and the provision of free spectacles to the needy.

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