Are you a newly elected college student leader?

Every year, matriculating college students are elected to leadership positions during the Spring semester. Unfortunately, many of them are elected without a clear understanding of how to effectively lead their peers or their organizations. There are many reasons why this lack of understanding exists.

Some reasons include:

1. The departing leaders didn’t model good leadership, so there is nothing for the new leaders to mimic.
2. There wasn’t any short or long term strategic plan for the new leaders to use as a roadmap.
3. There are no minutes or well written records to help the current leaders understand where the organization has been and where they need to take it.

If this is your situation and you find yourself nervous (or even afraid) on how you are going to be a good leader, don’t worry. Here are a few tips to help you create a leadership development training program for yourself this summer.

1. If you don’t already know, go online and take free assessment tests on your communication style, your leadership style, and your personality preferences. These tools are just a guide to help you better understand how you will engage with your peers when school starts.

2. Gather as much information as you can from the club/organization adviser, former student leaders, members, campus administrators and alumni of the club/school and gain a good understanding of the history of the group. Equipped with this information, from past and present leaders, advisers and students, you are better prepared to draft a roadmap for how you would like to lead the group on its journey into the future.

3. Commit to reading as many leadership books and articles that are relevant to your age group. There are many, but three of my favorite books to help introduce leadership principles and responsibilities to students include 1) 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and 2) Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell, and 3) Emotionally Intelligent Leadership: A Guide for College Students by Marcy Levy Shankman and Scott J. Allen. Of course, I can recommend many other books, but I have found these books easy to read and necessary for helping students understand good leadership principles (relationship over dictatorship) and how to understand themselves, in relation to effectively leading others.

4. Finally and most importantly, start getting over yourself. Yeah, I said it, GET OVER YOURSELF! Being a leader is hard work and requires you to be a servant to the members of your group. When you serve them, they will serve you. When you dictate, they will leave you to do all the work yourself, talk about you, and make excuses for not being involved. It’s important that you clearly understand that if you intend to do all the work, then you are not intending to be a leader. Leaders are actually leaders of leaders and hold primary responsibility for seeing the big picture and helping member see how they can contribute to that big picture, but every little thing they do to contribute. The leaders coordinate the effort, keep everyone on time, encourage, teach, and model the way.

Now, leader of leaders….train them up! LEAD members to success and everyone succeeds. Dictate the outcome and the process and everyone loses.

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