4 Lessons in Leadership As her term comes to a close, NSSLHA’s national president reflects on her experiences as a student and a leader. Student's Say
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Student's Say  |   February 01, 2017
4 Lessons in Leadership
Author Notes
  • Chelsea Walker, BSEd, is 2016–2017 president of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. She completes her master’s in education at the University of Georgia in May and will then begin her clinical fellowship. clynnw15@uga.edu
    Chelsea Walker, BSEd, is 2016–2017 president of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. She completes her master’s in education at the University of Georgia in May and will then begin her clinical fellowship. clynnw15@uga.edu×
Article Information
Normal Language Processing / Student's Say
Student's Say   |   February 01, 2017
4 Lessons in Leadership
The ASHA Leader, February 2017, Vol. 22, 44-45. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.22022017.44
The ASHA Leader, February 2017, Vol. 22, 44-45. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.22022017.44
In most experiences in life, practice makes perfect. This adage is especially true for leadership—each leadership experience uncovers a new lesson to take into your future.
Everyone’s leadership path is different. Mine began as an undergraduate senior at my first ASHA convention, where I started to see the big picture of the professions. I realized that I wanted to be a leader for my clients, patients, colleagues, families and the profession as a whole. I ignored the questions and doubts in my head and dove in head first—becoming a regional counselor and then president of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA)—and haven’t looked back. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way.
Delegate
We’ve heard it a million times: “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” Everyone has different skill sets and strengths. Delegation ensures that a task gets done efficiently, and also allows all members of your team to feel a sense of responsibility. One of my mentors had great advice about avoiding team burnout: “Give them a sense of purpose and commitment. To do that, you must give all players responsibility.”
In short, delegating has a dual purpose: accomplishing tasks efficiently and keeping your team engaged. It can be particularly hard for most of us Type-As to let go. In his book “Turn the Ship Around,” former Navy officer and leadership expert David Marquet talks about “broad guidance”—assigning tasks with guidelines, but allowing each team member to accomplish the task in their own way. When you delegate, give clear instructions while communicating that the task can be accomplished in many different ways.

Even the most carefully planned occasions go awry. An obstacle can be a lesson learned or a setback—the choice is yours.

Be flexible
Flexibility allows you to overcome bumps in the road by finding and taking another path to the finish line. Life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how you react. Even the most carefully planned occasions go awry. An obstacle can be a lesson learned or a setback—the choice is yours.
Flexibility allows you to see problems as opportunities, and transforms, “Oh, no!” into, “Look at what I discovered.” It transforms, “Your plan is wrong because it isn’t mine!” into, “It’s not what I had in mind … it’s even better!” It transforms near breakdowns into future success stories.
Have tough conversations
Confronting someone who broke the rules, violated the Code of Ethics, did not perform at expected standards—those conversations are never easy or fun. As uncomfortable as those conversations may seem, however, they are the agents of change.
I like to think of tough conversations as similar to a treatment session: If I continue telling my client their production of /s/ was perfect when they were performing at 60-percent accuracy, how will they ever get better? Even more important, how will they ever carry the correct production into daily activities?
By the same token, if I continue letting my team, whether it’s the NSSLHA Executive Council or my co-workers, fall short of expectations, how will we accomplish our goals? If I do not have tough conversations to help them improve now, how will they perform in future experiences? As their leader, that onus is on me. I owe them that.
We have all felt the sting of criticism—even when it’s constructive—and I think that is one of the reasons we, in turn, avoid tough conversations. But if I need to initiate a tough conversation, I try to remember that execution is everything—it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. I try to begin positively, giving credit where it’s deserved and admitting my own shortcomings. It also helps to come from a place of concern. Instead of beginning with, “You missed your deadline,” I try, “Is everything OK? I noticed you weren’t able to complete your assignment on time. What can we do to help you improve?” Empathy goes a long way.

If you want your team to work hard, show them how by working hard yourself. If you want your team to accomplish a large task, get out and do it with them.

Surround yourself with the right team
Find teammates who are committed to the same goal. I’ve found the most beneficial question to ask when recruiting people is “What are your personal goals?” Success is more likely if teammates’ personal goals align with the team’s goals, because each member is intrinsically motivated and there’s buy-in before the work even begins. Also look for teammates who have a variety of strengths, so your team is well-rounded and suited for collaboration.
If you want your team to work hard, show them how by working hard yourself. If you want your team to accomplish a large task, get out and do it with them. Our actions truly are more powerful than words. I also recommend publicly noting the positive and privately seeking solutions for the negative.
I remember my trepidation, questions and hesitations before taking my first plunge into national leadership. I did not feel equipped or ready—but do we ever really feel ready? I’m thankful that I did not let those feelings stop me from taking my first step. I will take the lessons from the past two years into future leadership roles, my career and my everyday life.
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February 2017
Volume 22, Issue 2