Strong, but loving

Two years ago, when I started working on the Executive Board of the Student Union, I had a wonderful Chair. Warm, empathic, asked how we were feeling, hugged, and supported. Made sure that situations don’t get heated, openly showed their emotions. That was difficult for me. I had not talked about feelings while working before, but I learned to. And learn I did, so much.

One year later, I was elected as the Chair. Throughout my campaign I tried to prove that I’m not just a cold educational affairs organiser who loves processes and administration but also a moral leader who protects her own like a lioness and does her all to create a safer space where everyone feels good. Unlike I imagined, there are no leaders of things and leaders of people. There is only leadership.

For January, I tried to work like my predecessor had. I was suffering from a severe impostor syndrome and was nervous that the board would find out that I’m a cold person who gets uncomfortable when someone cries. I was afraid I wouldn’t be approachable or couldn’t be supportive. I don’t know why. I’m not really cold; I’m very emotionally intelligent and emphatic. Just in a different way than my predecessor was. Fortunately, I realised this in the beginning of the year and started trusting my own vision and way of working.

This year, I’ve found my own leadership, my style of leading that feels good to me and that the people I lead thank me for. I create safety with my own strengths: processes. I make room for discussion on ground rules and call for them. I take care of the annual cycle, notify about deadlines well in advance, attempt to resolve anything that is unclear. I’m available when I’m needed and always ready to talk about even little things, but I also give room for others to fulfil themselves and trust their skills and judgement. I’m a lioness and I protect my own, but I demand honest responsibility for actions. I inspire, motivate, encourage, and lead with example.

Strong but loving. That was the motto of one of my predecessors when they still were a student union active. That’s my leadership.

Tarja Halonen once said that where a man is determined, a woman is difficult. When a woman lashes out on Twitter, she is a slave of her emotions, ideological and irrational when one is supposed to be pragmatic, rational, and objective. Someone I know described these characters as kings of logic who wave their wands of objectivity sitting on a throne carved out of rationality. Fictional characters who think they are free of their values acting in a vacuum where opinions are based on facts and statistics. I guess it goes without saying that this does not exist. Everyone has values, everything is politics.

I will not become Moominmamma. I know my own values and I’m not afraid to demand justice for people. Not even for fear of twitter trolls. I can be that difficult woman who protects her own like a lioness and demands justice. That difficult woman who deep down loves
processes and dry administration.

– Annika Nevanpää

Chair of TREY 2020

Chair of SYL 2021