Rachel Tristano has learned leadership on the fly.
Director of Chapter and Regional Programs
Council of Residential Specialists
Don't be afraid to dive in.
I started my career in a coordinator position, but soon I was running teams with people at all different levels. I had senior managers on my teams, which forced me to lead people who intimidated me. But having a desire to succeed no matter what gave me the courage to speak up. I started doing training back then, never knowing that now, probably 80 percent of my job is training.
Embrace the critics.
Early on, there were a few times where I didn't treat somebody as respectfully as I should have. I've come to learn that a difficult person can inspire thinking in groups that isn't always there without them. My initial reaction was more disdainful: "You're causing trouble again?" That was a negative, defensive reaction. Now it's more, "Let's take a look at your viewpoint. Why are you feeling like this?" I think I've benefited from them enough where I can look back and say, "That person can help me be more innovative."
Different groups demand different leadership.
With leadership styles, I'm kind of a chameleon because of my volunteer base. With some of them you can be laissez-faire because they'll be motivated internally. With others, I have to be the charismatic cheerleader. I have tendencies to be a certain type of leader, but I've watched myself adjust as I work with groups and adapt my style to them.