For the past two years, with the United Nations Association of Singapore, I have organised two preparatory Model United Nations conferences at Catholic Junior College.
The four-day conferences are not huge (150 and 225 participants respectively), but I helm a very small executive team which manages everything from publicity and registration to finance and general administration. During the actual session in December, we have a wonderful student-volunteer team from the school’s Political Science Society; however, pre-event preparations are often confusing or messy, and can be extremely taxing.
I am a terrible control freak (obsessive-compulsive disorder, maybe), and so for the first edition I drove myself insane trying to be involved in anything and everything: collating the general registration list, corresponding with the teachers and schools, settling the bank payments and registration fees, contacting and inviting guest speakers, writing the study guide from scratch, purchasing the logistics and stationeries needed, printing certificates, placards, handbooks, documents, banners… I was nearing the end of my National Service stint, but that meant that I had to use my nights-out and weekends to complete the many tasks.
Second time round, the delegation of roles and responsibilities was a priority. Still, the night before the conference, there were many matters that had not been finalised, and I had to stay up till 4 or 5 to complete the registration lists, as well as the different name-tags (not to mention preparation for the Opening Ceremony, which I also emceed). I was exhausted, and thoughts of not turning up did flash across my mind. This episode, of course, got me thinking a little about the supposed notions of leadership; that is, what makes a good leader?
Had I chosen not to turn up (and you can think about situations when the one in-charge is not always present), and the operations ran smoothly, would it be a reflection of my success as a leader? Would it not mean that I have empowered my administrative and management team to the extent that they are cognisant of what they have to do without supervision? Or would they construe my absence as laziness, or apathy?
Had I chosen to turn up, and be extremely hands-on (which was what eventually happened), would the gesture be appreciated? Would they have greater respect for what I do, because I have chosen to involve myself in the processes, to run the event with them? When I am actually on-the-ground with the team, doing things, would they think that I have too little trust or faith in them?
Leadership confuses me. And the control freak within me annoys me.