Everyday tips for the aspiring leader

Written by Amie Gant, Career Center Communication and Design Assistant, Bachelor of Science, Professional Writing.

Students raising hands
Students develop leadership skills simply by taking the initiative in class discussions and projects.

According to Job Outlook 2016 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), leadership is currently the most desirable attribute that employers look for in potential candidates.

While there are traditional and non-traditional students alike who have acquired years of leadership experience through jobs, volunteer work, and the military, there are many students who have not yet had the opportunity to gain leadership experience.

These students with little or no leadership experience are likely to be overlooked during the hiring process, even if they are viable candidates in other areas. There are many ways to build and strengthen leadership abilities. Here are a few suggestions to start:

  1. Raise your hand. When a professor asks for someone to answer a question in class, or to take charge of a group project, take initiative and snag that leadership position! It may not seem like much, but each time you answer a question or step forward to accept responsibility, you are building foundational leadership skills.
  2. Volunteer your time. A great way to gain valuable experience is to volunteer to a local cause that matters to you. Most volunteer-based organizations are short on paid employees, so don’t shy away from the leadership roles—there will be plenty of them! Learn more about volunteer opportunities through Missouri State’s Community Involvement and Service.
  3. Join an organization. Get involved with an organization you are passionate about, then take on positions within the organization that will push you to stretch your comfort zones. Learning to manage events and delegate tasks to a team are skills that will serve you well in the future. Learn more about campus organizations through the Office of Student Engagement.
  4. Gain potential in sports. Actively participating in sports can accelerate leadership potential. Sports instill hard work and perseverance that can inspire and motivate you as well as providing leadership roles along the way. For information on intramural sports, check out Campus Recreation’s Intramural Sports.
  5. Recognize the leadership qualities you already have. If you have ever planned a family event, babysat a younger sibling, taken care of a neighbor’s home and pets for a weekend, or worked at a summer camp, you already have leadership abilities. Reflect upon other areas in which you were in authority—you might surprise yourself with what you’ve already experienced.
  6. Complete a big project. Commit to a big personal project and see it through from start to finish. By learning to lead yourself, you will become more comfortable in that position and realize what it takes to inspire others.

Some of these recommendations may be outside your comfort zone, but the more you practice leadership activities, the more comfortable you will become. The key is to start small and develop your leadership skills a little at a time. Be a #LeaderBear.

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