Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Make clothes out of curtains

I'm watching The Sound of Music. I don't have a good reason. I just am. Actually, it made me think of a student leadership lesson, so bear with me.

You'll recall that Maria shows up at the Baron's house and meets his 14 perfect little Aryan children. They're stomping around, responding to whistles, and basically living under martial law. They all live in a lovely house, but they aren't having any fun – besides running off governesses with pocket frogs and pine cones.

Then, when the Baron goes away for a trip, that crazy ass Maria is cutting up curtains, putting on puppet shows and teaching the kids to sing songs about female deer. The kids don't know what hit them! They're having fun and hanging from trees.

Then, the Baron comes home. The drama begins! With the stick still firmly up his butt, he gets pissed that his kids are having fun, splashing around in that fake-looking lake behind his house, and acting like a bunch of hooligans in the neighboring gingerbread village. Damn the Catholic Church and their singing nuns!

In the end, fun brings the family together and song provides the avenue to their salvation. Sorry if I ruined it for you.

So, what the hell does this have to do with student leadership? I'll tell ya. Way too many presidents of student organizations are barking out orders, being harsh to their members, and acting as if their organization's survival depends on controlling everyone around them. They make everyone miserable. Members question why they are even involved. Members begin complaining and conspiring.

If this is sounding familiar, please consider that your members want to enjoy themselves and sing an occasional song about female deer. Every now and then, take a lesson from Maria and have a little bit of fun with the members of your organization. I know you have a lot to do. I know the work of your organization is extremely important. I know there are problems to solve, dollars to raise, rules to follow.

But seriously, isn't that stick making you a little sore?

Bring donuts to a meeting. Invite everyone out for a night of roller skating. Invite everyone to come over and watch the latest horror movie that just came out. Whatever. Lighten up sometimes. If you're not particularly good at motivating everyone with fun stuff, then empower someone else in the organization to do it for you, and enthusiastically support his or her ideas. Will your group crumble if 10 minutes of your next meeting is spent on a hula hoop contest? Of course not.

Find your Maria. Tear down those curtains, and make some play clothes.

Nobody likes a Nazi.