8 Tips on How to be a Student Leader
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:
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.
Communicate 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!