It is important to remember that characteristics of an effective leader are not something that can be trained in few days, as they are more similar to specific mindset rather than some random qualities of a good student. We are living in a fast-changing world, where qualities valued 100 years ago will not be of the same value in modern society. So today we would like to focus on things that, if trained and paid attention to, will help a student leader grow into flourishing captain being able to work in almost any industry.
What are Leadership Qualities?
We divided these leadership qualities among students in two separate lists based on the idea of public display and level of impact on your career as a student leader. We will begin with first part of characteristics such as things you have to have and be able to demonstrate.
The First Part of Leadership Qualities
- Vision for future, commitment, and consistency. The modern world is led by the visionaries, people who see the world at its best, being able to commit to their vision and pursue it without losing their focus. Can you find your passion in life and convert it into the mission? How can it benefit the world around you? Can you make it your lifetime commitment and gather people around it? A great example of such visionary is Elon Musk, as no matter how many times has he failed, he’s still focused on what he believes – his mission. Millions admire him, many hate him, but it doesn’t stop him.
- Building a team. Positive leadership is indissolubly related to your ability to create a successful team. CEO’s are no longer interested in ‘work-well-in-team’ type of people, shifting the focus onto those who can create prosperous squad, by forming lasting relationships, understanding motives, strengths, and weaknesses of each team member. And before you begin arguing, you do not have to be an extrovert in order to build a successful team. Having a team of introverts, for examples, is about respecting boundaries and finding approach to everyone.
- Being a student leader, you will have to develop an ability to inspire people around you. Studies show that most people are best driven by passion inside their hearts. Be there for them to ignite that spark and grow this passion, guide them through the storms they will face, and be there in time of need. Loyalty is one the most underestimated concepts.
- Okay, I know many will argue the next item on our list, however we believe that empathy and compassion are as important as any other qualities on this list. It is about understanding how other people feel in order to help them out. Moreover, this is applicable both to your team and to people you’d like to help. No matter if you are a head of students’ council, a local non-profit or just a single activist fighting for someone’s right, you will have to deal with pain, tears, and fear. Make sure you can sympathize, but do not let these feeling overwhelm you.
- Empowerment. There is a fine line between delegating and empowering people. Delegating means giving a certain scope of work for someone to do whereas empowering is more about giving a freedom to make choices, providing means and tools in order to make process both effective and productive.
- Learning agility. This is a complex notion that includes several important aspects, such as dexterity, decisiveness, and great adaptations skills. It is also quick understanding of a situation, ability to find a solution or creative approach, and staying proactive. This should also include flexibility, uncertainty management, and insatiable curiosity.
- Lead by example. I do not believe in words anymore, as people can say whatever you want to hear. I can hardly trust single acts, as they may be temporary camouflage. The role of student leader (and any leader for that matter) implies setting an example for people around you. And it’s not about being fake, leaving an ‘oh-so-perfect’ life, it’s about being honest, acting upon your beliefs, and staying true to what you believe in.
Moving on to the second part of the list, I have to stop and explain something. Our second list is about things you ought to have but never should be boasting about, as many people believe there are axiomatic characteristics every successful leader has.
The Second Part of Leadership Qualities
- Emotional intelligence. First of all, you need to have a deep and profound understanding of your own emotions and their reasons in order to understand and interpret emotions of other people. Emotional intelligence teaches us to untangle our emotions, finding the roots of the matter, and finding any aftereffects our emotional state has on our lives.
- Being opportunistic. Understanding the cost of opportunity, both taken and lost, is a key factor in being a successful leader. You will have to deal with risk management and make decisions that may have a lasting impact on your team. You have to weigh up all pros and cons of every opportunity coming your way or you just dive in no matter what.
- Maturity. Contrary to the famous saying, maturity has nothing to do with age and intellectual state. This notion is more about great communication, acting like an adult, and being a bigger person in the time of need. Maturing is often related to taking the responsibility for your own acts and your team as well.
- Public speaking. Okay, I know it seems obvious, but so many leaders tend to ignore this skill. I’ve been to an event a month or two ago where I met a guy who seemed extremely smart, making comments during presentations and helming several discussions. Nevertheless, when he started his presentation, I couldn’t help but yawn all the time, despite the fact I was on the edge of my sit with the previous speaker about 10 minutes before. It’s not about the information you present, it’s about the way you present it, interact with your audience, react to questions and comments. Make sure you practice and develop this skill.
- Humility. Being a public person, even in terms of your college requires a lot of strength to strike the right balance between being confident enough and being humble towards people around you, rather than threatened by them. You will also have to be able to admit you may be wrong from time to time, without undermining your self-esteem.
It’s not about being ideal, it is all about being true to who you are and learning every step of the path. As long as you remember that qualities of a good student leader are quite similar to those any great leader should have, you are good to go. Keep a positive attitude, focus on the bigger picture, and do not let anyone say you can’t do it!