Team Leadership – Learning from your team is far more important than teaching them

“AIESEC is the world’s largest youth-led network creating positive impact through personal development and shared global experiences.” – from AIESEC Global Website

I have been an active AIESECer from 2010 to 2014 holding various leadership positions from local to national level.
In the last active year of my AIESEC journey, I was the Member Committee President of AIESEC in Finland, simply MCP in AIESEC terminology. I use Country Managing Director on Linkedin for people who have no idea what AIESEC is, which is still the majority of the world population, unfortunately.

AIESEC can’t be explained, it can only to be experienced. Being the leader of an AIESEC entity on the national level is one of the toughest yet most rewarding experience I had.

My amazing team members

I had 6 team members from 5 countries. Oh, I should probably write a post about how the team was formed because that was a beautiful process. But for now, you can see their name and positions in AIESEC terminology from our logo. Again, don’t mind their positions, people are most important.

The unique thing about AIESEC is that everyone strives to develop themselves and others by both challenging and supporting each others in the work place. — It is unique because many work places claim to have such culture but actually they don’t 😉 Even operationally, we need to learn so much just to perform.

I learned about their operational areas

My team was recruited for what they did well in the local level, their capacity to learn more during our term. We learned together in international conferences and of course I also gave knowledge and opinion based on my longer AIESEC experience.  But I trusted they are experts in their fields and they can make important decisions regarding their own area. Doing things with them side by side,  I picked up many things such as sales from Stephan, marketing from Camilla. Of course it was for my personal development, but also it was to understand their perspective so it helped me in creating synergy in operational strategy and more democracy in the team.

I learned about their root and motivation

Sasha was 8 years younger than I was. She is very artistic and into music. Nischal had degree in Engineering even though his job description was about product development and marketing and international relations in social projects. Khoa had to take care of legalities of another association while he hated finance and bookkeeping…… the list can go on and on about how different we were as people.

We all wanted to be in the national team and develop ourselves, but we were still in different stages of life and our lives would only go on more separate ways after the term. I made a decision that our one year term must be also beneficial for their future path. So we spend a lot of time reflecting and discussing about what is important for us in life, what our culture meant to us, what our personalities say about us and what drives us forward.  Sometimes, the job description doesn’t allow us to make immediate adjustment and we do compromise for some roles. But talking about these openly creates good environment for people to feel respected and valued.

I learned about their preference of team environment and leadership

Khoa hated conflicts in the team and he tried to avoid it at all cost. Camilla and I can have heated discussions and still feel fine. Olga is very quite and doesn’t need much directions. Nischal prefer to have frequent checks about if our plan is on the right track. Stephan need to be challenged more by me but only like personal talks after official working hours in parties etc. Sasha likes her personal space more and wants to spend more of her personal time for herself. So you see these preferences even conflicts each other if we want to have a lot of team activities such as planning meetings and personal development sessions.

But still it is so important to learn about these preferences and try my best to provide leadership as a service to my team based on what makes them better person. Later phase of the year, I had more one to one meetings with them and also spend more time with some of the team members based on need.

Through learning from them and about them, I learned more of myself

Knowing is one thing, doing is another.

Before I really interacted with my team on daily basis, what I had was perception and opinions, not facts. After this year, I certainly have less opinions because there were so many facts of my team that made them very multi-layered to me. I feel even more humble by learning more from them.

They were also mirrors as who I was as a leader. Because better leader create better team, right? Simply, sometimes I know if I do a certain thing, I can be a better leader, yet I lack experience or capacity or these nice things doesn’t make it to the priority list.

Leadership is a fascinating journey, learn with your team, learn from your team!- Shanshan, Founder of Eureka.Y

Article was written by:

Shanshan Gong
Shanshan Gong – I am the experience of facilitator in over 30 international seminars/conferences that touched thousands of Gen-Y from different continents. Over the last 5 years, I have lead and coached multicultural Gen-Y teams, worked with Gen-Y leaders from more than 100 countries across several industries including non-profits.I have trained and facilitated in areas such as core values,long term vision/mission building, operational models, year plan, sales/marketing, organizational development, financial management, social entrepreneurship, team dynamics and leadership development.

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