Lessons in Leadership: On Change and Managing Relationships
“I joined AIESEC when I was in my second semester of my freshman year. A senior approached me and he seemed really passionate about the organization he represented. As a freshman, I was exploring student life options so out of curiosity, I decided to apply to join this organization.
I took up various small leadership roles in my AIESEC Local Committee, NUS, but the most significant and memorable one was when I was in the Local Committee Executive Board (LCEB) team, where I held the role of the External Relations Vice President. “External Relations” was a new department then, which allowed me the autonomy to set the framework of the department’s functions and ensure operational sustainability. . I was responsible for engaging and collaborating with external partners to grow AIESEC NUS as a whole, including internal member experience and the growth of our exchange programmes Our partners are mainly school offices, AIESEC alumni, school clubs and corporate companies. In a way, it was a lot about creating opportunities for our entity to introduce AIESEC’s Global programmes to youths and for others to have a greater understanding of what we do in AIESEC.
Becoming the Vice-President of a new department was in line with my motivation to shake things up in my entity. I embarked on my Global Volunteer (overseas youth volunteering) trip the summer prior to stepping up to the leadership role. During my trip, I was under the care of a local committee in Africa. I was very inspired by the way they manage their internal entity operations and how they continually ensured they maintain their reputation as one of the top-performing entities within the MENA region in terms of programme sales year-on-year. I asked myself then, how were they able to do it but we could not. Thus, I was galvanized to seek answers to this question that I constantly posed to myself, and found that the answer was to take action. I wanted to make a change within my own community, to enable us to perform even better. I had good faith in my team that we could achieve things collectively.
Throughout my leadership term, some of the hard skills I learnt included data reorganization and consolidation especially with Microsoft Excel. I gathered more insights into conducting thorough market research as well. But more importantly, it was the soft skills I gleaned that changed me – I matured in thought and in creating relationships with different parties, on both the professional and personal aspects. I have also learnt the art of negotiation and effective relationship management – how to brand my organization and promote its programmes to potential stakeholders that would create mutual benefits for several parties.
My most memorable moment in leadership was the ‘360’ night my team conducted mid-way through our term. So ‘360’ was a very honest, open and emotional conversation we had with one another – about the work we have done thus far then, our individual strengths and weaknesses, our team dynamics and reviewing the achievements we had then. It created a reflective space for us to be honest with one another, to unlearn and learn at the same time. That reflective space was important because it allowed us to establish mutual understanding within a team, and in doing so more trust was created. A team is then more compelled to achieve things together with greater trust. The first half of our journey, we were all so caught up with operational matters – whenever we met it was to discuss ‘sticking to the timeline’. Hence that night was actually a ‘change’ for us to relook and recalibrate our existing thought processes.
Throughout the process I realised that in any organizational body, it’s inevitable that conflicts will happen. What’s more important is that we need to be aware of managing expectations from different stakeholders, and to be able to manoeuvre through the complicated ropes of people relations. Learning how to make things with people of varying backgrounds, conflict management, conducting positive human interactions – someday we need to be able to grasp them. Though far from being perfect at them, I would say AIESEC had given me some good practice. I hope to be even better at these, as I advance professionally in my life.
If I were to advise today’s millennials it would be that: it is okay if we are not sure of what we want to be or do in the future. Most importantly, we should always try and do our best in whatever we set our minds to. I think the process of exploring our options will allow us to find out what are our passions and what is the value we can give to society today.”
(Huang Xinyue is a Year 4 Business Administration student at the NUS Business School. She was a part of the AIESEC in NUS Executive Board Term 16/17 as the Vice-President of External Relations. She had been an AIESECer for close to 3 years and came to remember the organization as one that had added vibrancy to her campus student life. )
-Article is contributed by Lok Siying