Leading in their own way at Southwest Regional Library

This week at Southwest Regional Library, we had some new students come to participate in our club. We are always happy to have new and returning students in our club and watch students conduct our activities while getting to know other members of our club. This week, students did the activity The Newest App, but did a website instead. Our former student was also there, but when she did the activity, she did it by herself, so it would be interesting to see how the dynamic was different as she redid the activity with other people.

An interesting thing happened in this session, which reinforced the mission and goals of Leaders UNITE. The first was as follows. While the students conducted the activity and worked together to create their own app, it was clear that all of the students were leaders in different ways, and contributed different things to the group. While going through our post-activity reflection, I spoke with the students about this aspect. One of the students took initiative, she was the one who came up with the app idea, and the person who quickly moved the discussion in a specific direction. It was clear that this student was creative and was serving as a leader, as she created the idea, wrote down everything for the group, and continued to pitch good ideas and reasoning to the group.

One of the other students began to speak up more as the activity continued. And while she was not the person who came up with the ideas, she was just as much of a leader in her own unique way. This student did not come up with the original app idea, but was continuously keeping ideas in check. She would ask, “What is the purpose of that?”, “Couldn’t we do it this was?”, and more questions that steered the website idea into something more concrete, practical, and useful. The dialogue that she added to the conversation was just as important, as it made sure the website the students create was sound, had necessary features, and that everything added to the idea made sense and was feasible. Without this person creating these questions and stopping points for the group, the website might not have ever become as specific or as practical as needed.

The other student, the student who had done this activity a few weeks ago by herself, also took on a very important role in the group in her own unique way. The students’ website idea was similar to Quizlet, but for a broader variety of subjects and with more features, such as a study break feature, combining words to make sentences feature, and more features for learning Language Arts. However, this student loved Khan Academy, and the features that that program had to offer. While the other two students didn’t know what Khan Academy was, this student took initiative to bring in ideas from that program to give the rest of her team ideas of how to broaden their website and include even more features. Again, although this might not have seemed like a stereotypical leadership role, this student was also serving as a leader by integrating other information to fill in holes in the website idea. It was also great to see this student work with others on this new website idea, which was very different than the one she had created when she did this activity on her own.

This day was a perfect example of what Leaders UNITE stands for and why I created the club in the first place. Everyone leads in different ways, and no one needs to be exactly one type of mold to be a leader. People can take on different roles in a group that are all equally important and contribute different things to the overall idea and group dynamic. And while these may manifest themselves differently in different people, the goal of the club is for students to discover how they lead, and then to become comfortable leading in their own unique way. I was proud to be able to reiterate this idea with students during our group reflection, and I was thrilled to be able to witness this taking place from an observer perspective. It is not bad to be the one who doesn’t come up with the idea. It is also not bad to be the one that does come up with the idea. The goal of the club is not say you can’t be the loudest person in the room, but instead that you don’t have to be. The idea of the club is to foster communication and teamwork while also taking into account people’s individual leadership skills. And while I will continue to work with this group on teamwork and different aspects of leadership, it was great to see them all take on their own unique, important leadership roles in a team.

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