How to build leadership skills in college

You may not know who I am, but one thing you should know about me is that I was extremely shy during high school. I was afraid of what people might think of me if I spoke up with my opinion, and also that I would say or ask something stupid. You might be thinking “but there’s no such thing as a stupid question,” and you’d be right. I just didn’t have the highest level of confidence to believe that.

Having confidence to speak publicly is a strong leadership skill. (Credit:

Having confidence to speak publicly is a strong leadership skill. (Credit:

However, as I started college I realized I was never going to move forward in a career unless I became more vocal and more confident in delegating tasks, so I did something about it. Now I am going to share some of the ways for you to develop great leadership skills.

Why you should develop leadership skills

The time you spend in college is the perfect time to prepare you for the real world, and improving one’s leadership skills is a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow as a person. In “Why being a student leader is the hardest and best thing college offers” by Sean Newman Maroni, he explains how college life forces students to reevaluate how one spends their time.

If someone is constantly making excuses as to why they couldn’t complete their part of a project or get an A instead of a C on an exam, it’s time to find out if they were busy being productive with other assignments or wasting time on social media or “Making excuses is just a roundabout way of saying that someone or something is not a high priority for you, and these are not the people you want on your team,” says Maroni.

As a strong leader, you will know when it’s time to make hard decisions like kicking a member out of a group if they’re not doing their part. This is a concept you will deal with for the remainder of your working life.

What are great leadership skills?

According to Students for Life of America (SFLA) in “Become a better leader,” leaders tend to be very passionate about the cause they are supporting and they make that known to everyone. Here are a few more of the qualities they exhibit:

  • Vision: Leaders have goals for the future, and they see the big picture. They know where they are, and they know where they want to be. Leaders direct and navigate the course to achieving their vision. They know what steps need to be taken, and then they direct their peers to follow this path.
  • Communication: Leaders clearly express their goals, needs, and plans. They are also good listeners- allowing for others to contribute ideas, advice, and influence. Their ability to communicate allows for successful delegation and solid relationships.
  • Humility: Leaders recognize that they are not the sole reason for their group’s success. They are part of a team of players, and they acknowledge the abilities and contributions of their peers. Leaders realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves. They do not seek praise, but rather the satisfaction of the success of their group and the fulfillment of their vision.

Opportunities in college for leadership roles

What makes college so great is that there are a number of ways college students can challenge themselves in order to improve their leadership skills.’s College Life section shares numerous options where you can get involved in a leadership role in “12 Opportunities for College Leadership” by Kelci Lynn Lucier.

  • Be a Resident Adviser in your residence hall. Here you’ll learn how to work with a team, mediate conflicts, build community, help people in need, and generally be a resource for your friends and neighbors. All, of course, while having your own room and earning some extra cash.
  • Run for student government. You don’t have to run for student body president to make a difference on your campus — or to learn some important leadership skills. Consider running for something smaller, like a representative for your Greek house, residence hall, or cultural organization.
  • Chair, start, or help organize a community service project. You may not have the time to assume a leadership role for the entirety of the academic year. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything! Consider organizing some kind of community service project that is a one-time gig. You’ll get the experience of planning, organizing, and implementing a major event without having it take over your entire semester.

If none of these seem appealing to you, no need to sweat! There are still eight other ways listed where you can strengthen your leadership skills.

What are some other tips you can offer on how to improve leadership skills? Let us know in the comments.

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