The summer for me is always a time to pause and reflect upon the previous academic year. It’s a time to reflect upon my challenges and my accomplishments in my role. Of equal importance, it’s a time for me to reflect upon my own growth as a professional and how my growth has impacted the growth and leadership development of the students that I work with on a daily basis.
As student affairs educators, we consistently challenge students to be self-aware, to be authentic and to lead with integrity. We encourage them to define their own path and make wise decisions about what they do, how much they do it, and when they do it. We stress the importance of balancing academics, relationships and social life.
So during my time of reflection, I asked myself… how do I model the practices, behaviors and values, which I expect my students to practice? Does my professional life display one of balance between my professional pursuits and my roles as a husband and father? Do I model authenticity in my interactions with students and with colleagues? And so forth…
Today, as I was driving home, I had the opportunity to speak with an executive board member of one of the student organization that I advise. Among many things that we discussed related to the organization and our goals for the upcoming year, we discussed strategies that we might employ to strengthen the organization. During this conversation, I took a chance and used this moment as a time to address not only what the organization could do to be more effective but how I, as the faculty advisor, as a role model and as an educator, could be more effective and proactive in my role.
After hanging up the phone with him, I felt good about our conversation. I was excited about all that we would be able to accomplish as an organization. But even more so, I was happy that I took a chance to be vulnerable and model “self-reflection,” a concept that I am always preaching to students that I work with.
I would like to think that the next time this student leader has to approach the idea of “self-reflection,” that he will be able to think back to our conversation and perhaps he will be able to take a chance, to be vulnerable and practice self-reflection and even model it for one of his peers.
As educators and role models, it’s not enough for us to just “talk the talk.” If we endeavor to support and promote the personal, professional, and leadership development of students, we have to be willing to “practice what we preach.” If our goal is to empower college students to become responsible and impactful leaders beyond our campuses, then we owe it to them to be consistent in our day to day practice of leadership. Otherwise, we become hypocritical figures whose words never materialize into actions.
The future leaders of this country need us to reject the old adage of “do as I say, not as I do” and embrace our opportunities to mirror the characteristics, values and behaviors that we challenged them to live by as student leaders and members of our campus communities.