by Jervan Khou
Behind the scenes, away from the sports seasons and SYF performances, almost all CCAs are starting the handover process. For many Year 6s, this is probably the busiest period of the year. For outgoing CCA leaders, some will feel satisfied with the things they’ve done over the past year. Others, and I suspect that this is the feeling of the majority, will regret the missed opportunities and wrong decisions.
As a result, some Year 6s cling on to their CCAs as ‘alumni’ or ‘CCAL emeritus’. While these people may mean well, I believe that their actions are superfluous, and this practice should not be encouraged. In fact, from the outset it has to be made clear to everyone intent on holding leadership positions that eventually the time will be up.
Alas, many seem to ignore this reality. Some sportsmen and women continue to train with their teams until September. Members of a uniformed group set up an ‘Advisory Council’ to give themselves a place within its ranks (and to give advice, of course). Actors and performers have even staged events after their graduation. Councillors hang around the Council room. These are just some examples of enthusiastic alumni who stay on after the curtains have closed on their act.
But what seems to be the problem? Juniors not up to the task? Perhaps. Not enough time to do everything? That’s for sure, but it’s not something leaders can do something about. The problem is that we fear our successors cannot repeat our achievements. Paradoxically, we don’t think we can achieve what we set out to do from the start. We may claim to be able to detach ourselves but when it’s time to go we cling on, desperately trying to make things the way we want them to be.
Some may say it’s much ado about nothing – after all, we’ve had so many years of relatively peaceful handovers. Clubs and teams still function smoothly. While RI has an otherwise well-developed leadership programme, very little emphasis is placed on what comes after leadership. And the unintended consequence is quite clear – people don’t know how to move on.
Moving on, letting go, breaking free. These phrases have pretty much the same meaning that is to cut oneself off from the burdens of the past so as to do something different. How is this concept essential for leadership in RI? From the leaders’ perspective, acceptance of the need to do so will open up more opportunities for them to experience new things, since they are able to end their relationship with their old club and willingly embrace a new one. They will continue to do their best and give their all for their people and their club. Knowing their time there is not forever, they can experience closure to something that would have been an integral part of their lives. Most importantly, because leaders know they’ll be gone, they will work to ensure that their successors would have the same opportunities, the same experiences, and the same freedom that they had.
Put in practical terms, this means proper After Action Reviews, seniors treating juniors with respect and perhaps even mentoring them or coaching them individually. Once a batch of leaders knows they eventually have to say goodbye, there is no longer an incentive to make themselves integral part of the organization. Charisma alone will no longer carry the club through adversity. Instead leaders will move towards implementing proper organizational structure, more robust procedures and transparent means of communication.
I admit this may be a rather optimistic projection of an idealized Rafflesian club. How do we actually achieve it? For a start, incumbent leaders have to impress upon their successors the severity of the very short timeframe they have to work with. In addition, the idea that school leaders should be inspirational, unique and agents of change should be expunged. While some of them are, most leaders are just custodians – there to see that things work out and everyone leaves satisfied – and they shouldn’t be ashamed to admit this reality.
It took a while for me to give up visiting my old CCA, 02 Scouts, but sooner or later it had to be done anyway. One day all of us will leave this institution and we can’t just keep coming back forever, or reminisce about the “good old RJC days”. In the words of T.S. Eliot, “What we call a beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” There’s nothing wrong with feeling nostalgic or sad, but we shouldn’t let these emotions affect us to the point we cannot conclude our story (and start a new one). So, as CCAs do their handovers, it’s high time people realize how important it is to have closure, and let go.