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Effective communication is key to successful leadership

Written by Sara Kim

Sara Kim during a AAA event.

Communication takes work. As president of one of the most active student organizations on campus, I found that includes a constant influx of emails and more than a few long nights preparing to facilitate a discussion, workshop, or event.

On several occasions, I not only found myself awake past midnight writing emails, but actually dedicating more hours to coordinating Asian American Alliance—or “Triple A,” as we affectionately call it—events than to my academics. But I had found my passion and an ability to influence others, and was learning to use both to be a proponent of change.

Communication is also a process, and I believe leaders should strive to maintain it and value it. Whether it is a program idea still being developed or an event already in progress, communication with the rest of the executive board, the behind-the-scenes audio-visual team, and even the performers becomes crucial.

The Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival is just one example of driving change grown from passion. The film festival is a result of dedicated students and faculty working together to create a space for Asian American and Pacific Islander media and shift the way AAPI are represented in the media. As one of the original IPAAFF team members, I took the initiative during my senior year to lead the outreach and academic panel committee that organized volunteers, catering, and performers for the weekend’s festivities.

I realized my place as a leader for IPAAFF as I became a liaison between local restaurants, volunteers, and the IPAAFF staff. Throughout the planning process, I surprised myself by how easily I knew the answers to certain questions or the amount of information I could spew about the film festival to other people.

I first became a part of the AAA family as a freshman. Over the next four years, AAA allowed me to foster relationships with mentors and belong to a family. From general body member my freshman and sophomore years, to vice president of public relations during my junior year, to president my senior year, I have grown into a leader who empowers others and advocates for social change.

Serving as president has been the toughest, yet most rewarding experience at Ithaca College. Occupying such a high-level and vulnerable position taught me to be resilient when a lack of communication led to underachieved goals. It also prepared me for the professional world.

As a leader, I believe one has to be vulnerable to both the best supporters and the harshest critics. I’ve learned from my experiences that you cannot be a leader without being vulnerable, because serving in that role warrants the space for others to criticize you and your leadership style. The high levels of responsibility, along with the expectation to grow AAA and maintain the legacies of former AAA presidents, have often pushed me into the realm of self-doubt. I am always my harshest critic. But through my experience, I have come to accept that not everyone will understand and like your leadership style. And that is okay.

Most notably, being a president means knowing how to lead with confidence and communicating effectively, and I think my experiences from freshman to junior year prepared me to take on the top position with AAA. As a former JumpStart participant and two-year leader of Community Plunge, I learned how to interact with those around me and navigate varying team dynamics, both of which I believe are important skills as a leader. I value communication in strong leadership, but it was through AAA that I came to understand that successful communication is not a one-way street.

I am confident my leadership experience at Ithaca will benefit me greatly post-graduation. The strengths I gained, and the weaknesses I found, will inform me as I navigate any professional industry I decide to pursue; my leadership experiences helped me discover and develop my leadership style and solve inter-organizational issues.

I feel it’s important for all students to take initiative in becoming leaders of the campus and community because the skills derived from being a leader will certainly become important in one’s personal life as well. For me, understanding my character strengths and weaknesses, as well as my ability to work and communicate with other people has allowed me to become more self-aware and adapt to any situation.

My roles as a leader and as AAA president sum up my IC experience as one of self-realization, professional development, and transition. Through the student organization itself, I came to realize and understand where my passions lie and the steps I need to act upon them. Thanks to the opportunities I have been afforded, I have connected with AAPI professionals in all industries. From freshman to senior year, AAA proved to me that I can learn much more about myself, and I have been fortunate to explore my ethnicity and identity with each AAA program, discussion, and event.

Sure there were ups and downs as president, but the past year would not have been successful without the people committed to AAA—many of whom I was coordinating with well after midnight on those long nights of communication.



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