So you’ve been announced as your Model UN club’s head delegate, secretary general, chief of staff, or some other leading position. Maybe you’ve been pining for this role since you were a freshman, or maybe you just happened to stumble into this new position. Either way, this is great news! But here’s the question: now what? If you are feeling anxious about entering this new role: good. I won’t tell you that you shouldn’t be nervous, because you should be. Taking on a leadership role in your club is a big responsibility and you need to take it seriously. That being said, there’s no need to panic so long as you put in the hours and do what’s necessary to support your club members. How should you go about that, exactly, you may ask? Well, here are six general pieces of advice for incoming MUN leaders that will help you best serve your Model UN club as we head into the 2019-2020 academic year:
1.) Prioritize Planning.
In order to put your MUN club in the optimal position for a successful year, you need to plan ahead. This may not be the most exciting part of the job; however, it’s simply essential that you prepare a schedule for the year before that first meeting hits. Model UN is innately the kind of activity that requires thinking ahead: you need to register for conferences, book hotels and transportation, decide the meeting schedule, and ensure you have curriculum prepped for each meeting. As a head delegate or a secretary general, that responsibility lies largely on you.
2.) Cultivate Relationships with Club Members.
Another quality of a strong head delegate is the mentor relationship they have with their club members. A head delegate must be able to effectively teach other, less-experienced delegates; however, what sets apart a head delegate from a coach are the responsibilities that go beyond teaching.
A coach is someone who teaches and trains, whereas the head delegate must mentor other students, providing their delegates with not only training, but with advice, support, and guidance in every aspect of Model UN.
A head delegate should be a support system that new delegates can turn to for more than just MUN advice. Furthermore, it is necessary for the head delegate to be able to maintain order, unity, and camaraderie throughout the members of the team, as at the end of the day, it is a team. Having ruptures and tension amongst your team members does set the team up for success throughout the MUN season, in terms of general enjoyment but also in terms of awards. Team group chats, bonding activities, and an overall sense of family fosters an environment where delegates support and push one another towards higher levels of achievement.
3.) Consider Individual Success versus Collective Success.
There’s more to being a good head delegate than merely having individual success at MUN. The skillset of a real team leader must transcend the ability to compete and win awards: you need to learn to teach, mentor, and motivate others. A Model UN team’s strongest delegate might not be the best fit person to lead. A great leader provides more to his or her MUN team than just certificates and gavels. Guidance, planning, and support through every step of the process is what ensures that a MUN team has a strong foundation for success.
4.) Cultivate Relationships with Faculty Advisors & School Administration.
Logistically speaking, being a club leader essentially means you are the link between the students and the administration: this is to say you need to be able to communicate effectively with both. When it comes to matters of budgeting, general finance, conference planning, and school-wide announcements, you need to have a positive relationship with your faculty advisor and the school administration behind them in order to maximize your success in getting your club’s needs met. For example, your faculty advisor will need to advocate for your club at administrative budgeting meetings. These meetings are notoriously high tension, since every club is fighting for their own funding. Your advisor will be much more likely to fight on your behalf for that essential funding if they have a strong relationship with you.
Thus, it’s fairly easy to see how interacting positively with your faculty advisor can–and will–directly affect the substantive decisions and resources provided to you as a student leader.
So: write polite emails, be responsive, be an active leader, and express your gratitude for their help and commitment often.
5.) Lead by Example and Practice Personal Accountability.
The best way to build a culture of hard work and positive mentality in your club is by embodying those values yourself. Similarly, the most effective way to teach debate, argumentation, public speaking, rhetoric, cadence, and lobbying-related skills is to demonstrate them during club meetings. Finally, the best way to encourage students to push for awards at conferences is for you to be competitive yourself. In all facets, being a strong leader is about personal accountability.
Reprimanding your fellow students in an effort to produce better work performance is a strategy destined to fail: being a strong club leader starts with being a strong club member first.
6.) Be Flexible and Listen to Others.
As an incoming leader, you’re going to make mistakes: this is inevitable. What’s critical is that you learn from those mistakes and improve your leadership style as the year goes on. A great way to guarantee constant improvement is to gather feedback from club members and pay close attention to it. Provide opportunities for club members to comment on what they’d like to see improved about club leadership or activity structuring: this will ensure that students feel like their opinions are being taken into consideration and that club leaders are willing to work alongside regular members for the betterment of the club for all participants.
Being a MUN leader in more than just name, over all else, means doing whatever necessary to continuously improve your club to the benefit of all members, leaders and regular members alike. It means that when the best path of leadership seems unclear, fall back on the concept of being a strong club member rather than a leader.
Remain an active participant, motivate those around you, and work to encourage everyone to push themselves towards whatever their individual goal may be: for some this could mean delivering one non-prewritten speech at a conference, and for others, this could be winning a gavel.
Your job is not to impose your own personal objectives unto others, but rather to support each member in their pursuit of greater accomplishment with MUN as a vehicle for achieving those goals.