8 Tips on How to be a Student Leader

8 Tips on How to be a Student Leader

Resident Assistant Leah Elkins (middle green jacket) pumped up new students in a campus volleyball game, building relationships between near-strangers.
Resident Assistant Leah Elkins (middle green jacket) pumped up new students in a campus volleyball game, building relationships between near-strangers.

by Leah Elkins, Outdoor Recreation Leadership student

Being a student leader in college can be a challenging role to pursue, but when a student is passionate about leading, there’s no stopping them. Adopting the role of a college student, yearning to learn and grow, while actively working to inspire the community around you encourages a unique set of skills. Educating yourself on these skills and reaching towards them lets you develop as a leader. These are the people who go on to change the world for the better, one of the ultimate goals of higher education. Getting a head start on these leadership traits will put you on the path to success.

So what does it take to be a student leader?  There are hundreds of answers and none of them are wrong. Here’s a condensed list of 8 tips on how to be a student leader:

  1. Plan to Make Mistakes

    Nobody wants to admit they’re wrong. More importantly, however, is the fact that nobody gets away with being constantly correct. You will make mistakes. You must accept them, acknowledge them, and analyze them. How can you avoid this mistake in the future? What can you learn from this mistake and the outcome? Experience is the best teacher. Teach yourself from the mistakes you will inevitably make and keep your head up.

  2. CMC Leadville outdoor students practice leadership skills on the low ropes courseCommunicate and Build Relationships

    You can’t be a leader without people to lead. Developing listening skills is a true cornerstone of leadership; gaining the respect of others is equally as important as giving them respect. Leaders accept diversity and adapt to the needs of their community. Speak your mind after taking the time to consider other people’s perspectives.

  3. Rather than sit idly by as instructors assisted other students in the CMC Sport Climbing course, this group of student leaders got together and practiced tying anchors, relying on each other for guidance whenever mistakes were made.
    This group of student leaders in the CMC Sport Climbing course got together and practiced tying anchors, relying on each other for guidance whenever mistakes were made.

    Don’t Apologize Too Much

    Humility is an important trait but it can only take you so far. Focus on developing skills in sound judgement and competence, don’t apologize too often, and let your confidence guide you. Apologizing can be necessary at times but can too often paint you as naïve, a common position for college students to put themselves in. Remember that you’re still a student, never apologize for learning, and find the balance between humility and confidence.

  4. Remember to Detach and Reflect

    Leaders aren’t superhuman. When a situation gets too emotional, personal, heated, stressful, or overwhelming, remember to detach and reflect. Take a step back and consider your position. Don’t let the situation cloud your judgement. Utilize the “deep breath” method of detaching yourself so you can continue with sound judgement.

  5. Listen to Your Gut

    Peer pressure is real. Question everything that your gut isn’t sure about. Don’t let anyone lead you down a path you don’t agree with! Don’t ever be a sheep. Analyze situations with respect, wisdom and stick to your gut. This is the balancing act between being both a student and a leader.

  6. Be Optimistic

    Leah Elkins puts on her happiest shirt to test her backpack for Mountain Orientation, using optimism to ignore the fact that it weighs over 40lbs!
    Leah Elkins puts on her happiest shirt to test her backpack for Mountain Orientation, using optimism to ignore the fact that it weighs over 40 lbs!

    Leaders inspire people. If you portray an optimistic mood, especially in negative situations, people around you will lighten up. They’ll look up to you. Enthuse your community! Motivation and enthusiasm are two peas in a leadership pod.

  7. Be Authentic

    Self-awareness is a key leadership trait. This relates to the idea of listening to your gut. Leaders cannot be sheep. Solidify your morals and objectives and walk with pride. Analyze your flaws and strengths and never quit growing in your own direction. Stand separate from media expectations and peer pressure! Think like a leader.

  8. Be Responsible

    Say what you mean and do what you say. College is a necessary time to develop these skills. The people you meet in the college community will influence your future, for better or worse, and the difference is entirely up to you. Job references, connections to new ideas, and influencers are everywhere. If you let them down often, you burn your own bridges. Stick to your word and don’t say anything you don’t mean. Your reputation as a leader demands it!

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