Applying for a Leadership Position

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It’s that time of the year again where leadership turnovers in different CCAs are occurring. For Year 5s (and/or enthusiastic Year 4s), let me provide some insights into the process of deciding whether to apply for these leadership positions, as well as the process thereafter.

Do note, however, that all views mentioned here are completely my own, and are based on my understanding of the variety of leadership positions that are available in ACS(I). In other words, I am writing from the perspective of someone who is a member of the Student Council, Boys’ Brigade Primers, Christian Fellowship and Young Diplomats’ Society. Recognising the potential flaws in my own understanding, I will nonetheless provide my own views on the matter.

Should I apply for a leadership position? And which one?

There are many reasons why one can go for leadership positions. As I am writing this, I am aware that this article might attract power-hungry snakes. Yet, I am sure that there are also many people genuinely interested in certain leadership positions for ‘noble’ (or at least ‘legit’) reasons. I will highlight some ‘fair’ reasons one might wish to apply for leadership positions:

  1. For fun
  2. Personal development
  3. Serving others

Crucially, you should ask yourself the following three questions before you decide to apply for any positions:

  1. Why am I applying for this position?
  2. Is it consistent with my values?
  3. Will I be able to handle the position?

Given the sizeable Christian population in the school, I will share my own Christian perspective. As a Christian, I believe that you should seek God’s blessing before applying for a position. However, be warned. Let me use the following analogy: you can successfully get away with short-changing the ‘Just for Mee’ aunty, but just because God let it happen, doesn’t mean that he approved of it in the first place. In the same way, just because God let you have a position, does not mean that he wouldn’t rather that you went without the position. The same is true of the opposite.

Moreover, prestige and the richness of the potential learning experience are also factors you should take into consideration. Bear in mind that the richness of the learning experience does not correlate with prestige. Some CCAs do not require as much commitment, time and energy as others. Not all student leaders will be pushed to an equal extent, presented with equally challenging challenges (certainly not the same challenges), or derive the same levels of fulfilment. It is up to you to discern which leadership positions are more demanding than others. Never assume that someone is a slacker just because he has a seemingly low position. Similarly, never assume that someone is the greatest contributor just because he is the highest leader in his CCA on paper.

Another thing to note is your own personal inclinations. Given the great variety of leadership positions, there is no one method of handling that will be sufficient for every leadership position. Some positions require more time, others require specific skillsets, and yet others might simply require that you have good interpersonal skills or a caring heart.

The solution to this is: be sure that the position is suitable for you in the first place before applying. Most leadership terms last only a year, and that is usually not long enough for people to develop a new character attribute and thereafter use it in the capacity of his leadership position for a meaningful length of time. The same goes for leadership positions requiring large amounts of time and commitment. There is really no way around that other than ensuring that you can handle the commitment prior to applying for the position.

Last of all – your CV. It is a reality that leadership positions add “flavour” to your CV. If you want to pursue a career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you should logically seek a leadership position in the Young Diplomats Society. Not only does this give you a better understanding of diplomacy, it also aids in convincing your future MFA employer that you have acquired these qualities and shown an interest in the field of work from an early age.

Taking all these factors into account is important for your decision, and I hope you make it wisely.

What happens next?

Suppose for a moment that you have made your decision. How do you now go about securing the appointment? There’s really no answer other than preparation. These are unique to each individual CCA, and require some extent of individualised knowledge.

Do note, however, that teachers deciding leadership appointments are subject to bias and human error. That’s a fact. Everyone is subject to imperfect knowledge. As such, someone may coincidentally say the right things and make the right choices (only when the teacher is aware) and may get the position over a more deserving student. Of course, this issue is somewhat smaller if the position requires an election. But, that opens up another can of worms, because then the election process is subject to student’s biases, at the heart of which is popularity. Make of these imperfections what you will, but do note that this means that the most deserving candidates do not always get the position.

Once you do get into a leadership position, there will of course be a great deal you will have to work with, mostly unique to each CCA. There is, however, one thing that remains constant for all leadership positions: having to deal with people. If you are an exco member, you may feel salty that you were not given a higher position. Likewise, if you are the leader of your club, you may feel an inflation of your ego (and the dread of knowing that you have to deal with exco members). All I can say is that it is better to bury your emotions, and critically evaluate power dynamics. In other words, maintain a cool head. Often, it is the one who loses his cool that ultimately loses. Whatever position you hold, be a good person about it. If not for any selfless reasons, at least do it, knowing that your good reputation will accord you many long-term benefits (for example, who would vote someone into Student Council if he was a tyrant as a CCA leader?)

So, should I apply? Or should I not?

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with leadership positions. There were not-so-pleasant times, when I had to stand toe-to-toe with others (and also times when I gave in), but what I appreciated was the ‘spice’ that it added into my life, getting to meet and work with a fairly large number of people, and all the things I have learned. At times, I was busy, but at least for me, I found the exercise of having to deal with both the fun and not-so-fun aspects of leadership interesting in general, and it is such intrigues that spurred me to pull through.

Most importantly, however, always think about the long-term. I certainly did not choose my leadership positions for the sake of fun. Otherwise, I would have probably joined an entirely different set of CCAs. But, whatever, you do, make the best of your situation, no matter how unfortunate it may be. Always look for opportunities for action. For example, if you were merely a member of a CCA, taking initiative to do things may get you recognition, and eventual appointment into a position in future. It may also gain you some friends, and friends provide you with many things that perhaps are yet unseen. Or else, you might even learn something.

Donovan is a Year 6 student currently studying in the Humanities Scholarship Programme. Amongst other portfolios, he holds positions in the Student Council, Christian Fellowship and the BB Primers Executive Committees. He is also known for his singing ability, most notably the song “Broken Vessels”.

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