How to be a leader: Advice for college students on developing leadership qualities

How to be a leaderSome of the best advice for college students is to not only get involved but to be a leader on campus. And, just like anything else, it takes practice to develop the qualities of a leader. If you have been considering a leadership role in one of your clubs or organizations, now is the time to take action! Here are a few tips on how to be a leader and grow some outstanding leadership qualities.

Let it shine

With a little bit of drive and determination, everyone can perfect the leadership skills they have (and, yes, everyone has a few):

  • Become president of the Chess Club, your fraternity or sorority, the Debate Team, your student government, your intramural hockey team, whatever! Just step up! You’ll be glad you did.
  • Take the lead on class projects. Show that you can delegate and keep others on a tight schedule. To help with these and other tasks, check out “5 tips on turning your unfocused group into group project masters” on
  • Get a job and try to make it worthwhile. If you are an English major, apply at the library. Interested in Teaching? Offer your tutoring services. Great with kids? Start a babysitting business. Taking this type of initiative is a great way to enhance (and show) your leadership abilities.
  • Play to your strengths…or your major. Don’t just get involved, get involved in something you are passionate about. If you plan to pursue an MBA, then consider being the treasurer for an organization. Tie your interests into your future career–your resume will thank you for it.

Having trouble honing your leadership abilities? Fear not. Just check out The CollegeBound Network‘s “10 ways to launch a leader” and see how to develop your strengths into leadership material.

Avoid the spotlight

One of the most important qualities of a leader is knowing when to step aside and let others take the spotlight. A few specific instances include:

  • When you don’t have expertise on the subject. If you aren’t an expert, don’t pretend to be! A great leader knows when to ask for help and admits when he doesn’t know how to do something. Use this as a learning experience while someone with more knowledge takes the reins.
  • When there are too many dominating personalities. At times, you will be surrounded by strong leaders. If too many dominating individuals are involved on a project, consider letting someone else lead. Being a team player is also a valuable leadership skill.
  • When your grades begin to suffer. Being too involved can be a bad thing, especially if it means that you are spending more time on your extracurriculars than on your studies. If this happens, admit it–and be willing to forego some of your responsibilities until your grades are up to par.

Leadership tips

Whether you are standing in the spotlight or letting someone else take center stage, here are a few leadership tips to consider:

  • Be sure to get noticed. Even when don’t have the lead role, you can still stand out by contributing as a team player. Your group members (and your future employers) will be impressed by this!
  • Learn how to deal with people. One of the most difficult jobs of a leader is dealing personalities ranging from “Hyper Heather” to “Procrastinator Pete.” The trick is keeping your cool and your sanity while doing so. To aid your success in this area, take a peek at WebMD‘s “Dealing with difficult people: 17 tips to keep you sane,” posted by Sarah Felix on February 28, 2008.
  • Get away from campus. Being involved in the larger community shows that you care, that you are versatile, and that you want to make a difference.
  • Sign up for more than one activity. You don’t have to be the president of every club or organization you join, but it is important to be well rounded. So don’t just stick to your comfort zone. Take this time to branch out. You may just find a hidden talent you never knew you had.

According to an article, “How to avoid collegiate over-involvement burnout,” posted in the College section of USA Today by Meghan Haenn on February 23, 2011, “You’ll feel most fulfilled as a student leader when you can learn something from your group and they can learn something from you. Don’t plateau as a student leader–continue to challenge yourself and you will continue to ascend.”

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