1. It’s Not About Your Position – President Lincoln said that “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” This holds true with student leadership as well (for both male and female leaders). I’ve encountered many student leaders that concentrated more about their position and power rather than serving others and meeting the organizations’ goals. Remember that you were elected and / or appointed to your position to do good things, not to continually remind others of your positional status.
2. Be Gracious and Humble – “Please” and “Thank You” go a long way with everyone. Do not use these words just to get something from someone, but to demonstrate that you are respectful, courteous, and an overall decent human being.
3. Maximize Opportunities – A university is rife with opportunities for leadership development. Working with other students, faculty, staff, and clubs and organizations outside of your own is a great way to share resources, ideas, and maximize success. Maximizing opportunities is also a great way to practice leading people.
4. Create Allies, Not Enemies – As the old saying goes, you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar. The same is true when working with others. Do your best to create alliances with other student leaders and administrators. When people trust and respect you, they are more likely to help you. However, if you constantly strive to always be right (whether you actually are or not), you set the stage for distrust, anger, and ultimately, people will work against you.
5. Don’t Collect Position Titles – I see many student leaders list positions on their email signatures and Facebook and Twitter profiles like a grocery list. It’s truly not about how many organization positions you have, but what goals you are accomplishing and what positive impact you are making.
6. Serve Others – Be selfless and lead with the intention to serve others and not yourself. Do good on campus and in your community. You can gain as much as, if not more, through your leadership experience by serving others rather than yourself.
7. Set Attainable & Realistic Goals – Leaders make things happen; they do this by setting goals and working to achieve them. Setting your heights too high can be counterproductive. Not that you can’t set challenging goals, but make them attainable and realistic. Fundraising $5,000 by the end of the semester may not be a wise goal to set if you only have five team members and limited time to achieve this. But $500 may be more attainable and realistic with the resources at your disposal.
8. Challenge with Data (and Respect) – Student leaders must partner with university administrators in order to to be successful in their leadership pursuits and organizational goals. However, I have seen these relationships ruined through blatant student disrespect. Granted, this should be a two-way street on the part of administrators as well. Being respectful, gracious, and courteous should be your approach when working with and challenging university officials. Additionally, don’t complain just for complaining’s sake. Back up your arguments with evidence, data, and realistic solutions. Work toward a “win-win” instead of simply trying to get your way.
9. Help Others Reach Their Goals – As is the case with #4 and #6, one of the most rewarding things a leader can do is to help others to reach their goals. People are more willing to help you if you are helping them. Furthermore, helping others is a leader’s way to mentor and give back.
10. Have Fun – Enjoy being a student leader! While you should be invigorated by teamwork and the pursuit of your organization’s goals, always remember to have fun. The former CEO of Trader Joe’s used to tell his employees that if they were not having fun after 30 days, they should resign from their position. He said this because he wanted people on his team that enjoyed what they were doing and had fun. The same should be true for any organization that you are a member of. If it’s not fun, either make it fun or find something else to participate in that will be.
What are some other successful leadership strategies that you can share? Please comment below and / or Tweet using the hashtag #VulcanLLC and mention @VulcanLeaderLLC.