While this may seem a little over the top, managing relationships could be the single most important aspect of life. Throughout history, leaders have inspired love and loyalty from their people; many have also oppressed and tortured those they have power over. Here at Grub Street, you will not be addressing thousands from a balcony. Rather, you will be assigned a group of five to ten people with whom you will work closely. Leading discussions and managing these relationships can affect the entire outcome of the journal. So always bear in mind the effect you are having on the group, especially because everything said and done has a direct, personal effect on someone or the entire kingdom. Anyway for those future editors and team leaders, here is my tip to help you get a bronze statue erected of yourself, sword in hand, and hopefully avoid a coup that leaves you lying face up under the guillotine.
Be a leader, but please do not be the boss.
The boss. Someone we all dislike, someone we all avoid. Someone we all bitch about at happy hour for making us close out of our online shopping windows when he/she walks by. The boss, at least to me, instantly triggers a negative connotation. The boss is someone you are forced to report to and who can reprimand his/her subordinates as he/she deems fit. A leader inspires, a leader offers advice. A leader wants to be criticized for the sake of improvement, and hear the opinion of all those he/she affects. You fear the boss, you admire a leader. Try not to come across as aggressive or overly demanding. Instead, be open and eager to hear what everyone has to say, it is supposed to be fun after all. If someone feels forced or rushed to do the assigned readings, they treat it like homework, mainly in the way that they probably won’t even do it. Your group should look forward to reading and discussion, which can be greatly influenced by your own attitude. Finally, for the love of whatever deity you worship, do not try to over-assert your given authority. These students have to go to work after class already, they don’t need someone else barking orders at them.
People always identify and communicate more successfully with their equals as opposed to their superiors. A colleague on the same horizontal plane as you deals with the same issues and will usually have the same complaints. These two people can talk freely with no fear of consequences. Do not separate yourself in any way from the group, it is your group after all. There are two great ways to do this:
One: Communication. You will see these people twice a week and be exchanging emails even more frequently. Future genre leader, feel free to copy and paste this and put it at the end of every email you send: “If you have any questions, ideas, or complaints, please do not hesitate to let me know. I look forward to hearing from you all.”
Two: Transparency. I’m pretty sure Alexander the Great’s army knew what to expect when coming over the final hill of a long march. But when you’re stapling spreadsheets that you do not even understand for Lumberg’s next meeting, not only are you confused, but you do not even care. We are all scared of the dark, do not purposefully or obliviously keep your group members in it. When someone feels like a valued and involved member of a team, his/her productivity along with the willingness to take initiative sky rockets. So pass any information you receive down the chain of command, and if there is a loop, keep everyone in it. At the end of the day, don’t you want your group to have your back? Always remember, someone without friends is someone without power.
The image above is "Flight" by Gillian Collins.