team brainstorming a design on whiteboards

Building Connections: A Conversation with a Formal Leader

Formal leadership can be used to describe how leaders may practice authority to direct or facilitate other individuals, through an official title in their organization such as an elected member of a student organization. I interviewed my friend, Jessica, to learn more about her experience within a formal leadership role. Some of Jessica’s experiences include, Vice President of Communications for the Architecture and Visual Studies Student Union (AVSSU), and Logistics Lead for the UTChinese Magazine and ACE Career Fair.
Portrait of Jessica on a TTC streetcar
She shared with me some of the lessons she’s learned, skills she’s developed, and challenges she’s faced in these positions, and how they’ve formed her leadership syle. As someone who’s never held a formal position, it was interesting to learn more about her responsibilities, and gain a different perspective on leadership. Some of her roles as VP of Communications for AVSSU, included managing social media, helping other members with their designs, and managing communications between students and faculty members. As Logistics Lead for UTChinese Magazine and ACE Career Fair, she’s also led and supported a group of designers for communications and event organization. To manage her time between her roles, school and everything else, Jessica makes sure to set time slots for tasks, and allow for buffer time in-between. And to squeeze in a good nap every now and then. One of the strengths that Jessica always tries to improve is her ability to connect with others. As a leader, she supports her team members by connecting them with each other and others. In AVSSU, she used her platform to uplift the voices of international students, because as an international student herself, she wanted to change the under representation and lack of connection. She also shared that she’s a quick learner and applies what she learns to make things better. When facing challenges in her roles, it was teamwork and communication that proved to be the most effective to solve problems and find solutions. To Jessica, leadership is about connecting individuals and helping each other find connections because not everyone knows best. She also describes it as,
“…streamlining the best structure to make something work better. It doesn’t have to be hierarchical or vertical, but more like free association.”
And when it comes to supporting other leaders, she shared the importance of taking risks and learning by doing,
“I encourage others to just go for it, even if you might not have the experience yet or feel ready, because you may never really feel ready, but you learn in the process.”
Are you involved in a club or group at U of T? Check out ULead Conference 2019. Are you an elected student representative? Represent Student Leadership Conference 2019, will be held on May 1 and 2, sign up will open in late March.      

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