Here you are…a student leader. Wow! What a title. What a responsibility! Do you feel prepared for the excitement and challenges that lie ahead? Whether you are a new and emerging leader or one who is more established, brushing up with some leadership tips is a great way to start off the year. Actually, it’s a great way to start off each month or even week! Being a leader is an on-going process, one that is never complete.
Here are some tips to review now and throughout the year.
Know Who You Are…And Who You Aren’t
This means having a clear understanding of yourself. To do this, you must be willing to reflect a bit. Assess your skills and beliefs. What will you stand up for? Is how others see you congruent with your own self-appraisal? Are you living with integrity? What abilities do you have? What should you leave for others to do?
Considering these questions once is not enough. As a member of a constantly changing world, habitual evaluation is necessary. As time goes on, ask yourself if your experiences have helped you to grow and change as a leader? As a person? Have they reaffirmed or challenged your ways of thinking? Who are you today?
Find a Mentor
None of us can do it alone. Having a mentor you trust and admire can prove to be a valuable asset. As you encounter challenging situations, a mentor is someone who can serve as a consultant, looking at issues in an objective and professional way. He or she is also likely to have meaningful past experiences from which to draw insight and perspective. Who knows, you may also find an ally for life!
It is likely that you were empowered by another to become a student leader. Each of us rarely does it all on our own. Perhaps someone helped you to develop a particular skill. Or maybe someone saw potential in you and had the ability to offer you a great opportunity. Well, now you have the chance to help others on their path to leadership. Take advantage of it! Recruit others to be involved. Share the responsibility and the reward. Be a part of making sure that after you have gone there are others to carry on.
Fine-tune your skills through experience and intentional opportunities. Take on tasks and responsibilities that develop your existing talents as well as ones that will stretch you to learn skills outside of your comfort zone. You can begin the year by taking an active role and participate in leadership workshops on your campus, take advantage of any conferences you are invited to, and use one of your electives to take a course that relates in some way to leadership. You’ve worked hard to become a student leader. Don’t be afraid to work hard to remain one.
Although there are many parts of your role as a student leader that must be taken seriously, you do not have to be serious about everything that you do. Leadership is a joyful adventure. Find where the joy in it exists for you and make that a part of your experience!
Don’t forget! No matter how many leadership positions you have held, being an effective leader is an on-going process. It begins by knowing yourself – your motivations, values, abilities, and limitations. It is being true to these principals, proving you are a person of character and credibility. Leadership implies leading others. This requires the ability to empower, relate, include, be purposeful, and inspire. Because people and situations are always changing, effective leadership also requires on-going learning and flexibility. Now go forth and lead on!
Submitted by Kristen B. Hyman, Associate Director of Student Affairs, Penn State Abington