Student Leadership

How to Develop Student Leadership Skills

Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Alexander the Great—these are some of history’s greatest leaders. 

But what do these individuals all have in common? And why are these skills essential for a student leadership? 

Leadership is an integral part of any student’s success. It’s the ability to stand your ground, make major decisions that leave an influential impact, and see the value in representing both the majority and the minority. 

But like they say: leaders are made, not born. 

You won’t know how to be a leader but merely observing those in power. It’s a gradual process of learning and experience that will direct you to become the best student leader that you can be. 

How Can You Show Leadership at School? 

True leaders are recognized for their natural potential to innovate, empower, and influence others through their words, actions, and sometimes even, their very presence. 

Student leadership development exists to prepare students for real-world situations. 

You don’t have to be the team leader of a group, the CEO of a company, or the President of the Student Council to be a leader. There are student leadership qualities that every individual possesses, and skills that anyone can master. 

Let’s look at a few of these skills. 

Understand people 

Every general will tell you that one needs to learn to take orders before becoming the one who gives them to others. That is one essence concerning leadership, and understanding people’s psychology will get you a long way, so do not hesitate to explore online libraries with essay archives about human psychology. 

This is free knowledge available for those who are willing to explore the secrets regarding the human mind. Every leadership essay that one can find will contain some useful information that you can apply in your life, especially some examples about how rhetoric, charisma, and solving conflicts within the group affects people’s perception concerning you.

Helpful Links:

Get to Know Your Leadership Style 

Consider the leaders mentioned at the beginning of this article. If you’ve heard their names before and the stories that come with it, you’ll notice the vast differences in who they are as leaders. 

Some leaders are authoritative. These individuals possess a leadership style driven by command and control. Other leaders are participative. These are the people who believe in democracy and encourage members of their group to play a role in the decision-making process. Meanwhile, there are those with a delegative, situational, or transformational leadership style. It varies with anyone, so you might want to take the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. 

Practice Discipline

One of the student leadership qualities that are a must to have is discipline. People will criticize your capacity to lead by the amount of discipline you have in your personal and professional life. 

You can demonstrate discipline as a student by meeting deadlines on time, obeying school guidelines, and displaying appropriate behavior while in class. It can start from the smallest things of your every day that can eventually influence how you handle the rest of your student life. 

But if you struggle with staying organized, don’t let this stop you. You can always start with a few habits, like going to school on time, getting your homework done early in the night, or following a workout routine to stay fit. If you can discipline yourself to stay committed to these small habits, you can then work your way up from there. 

Learn to Follow

You read that right.

Effective leaders are team players. 

You have to allow others to take control of a situation when appropriate. The importance of keeping an open mind is that it gives merit where merit is due. Being a leader doesn’t put you above everyone else, so people will disagree with you, question your decisions, and set forth their own ideas over yours. It won’t always be easy, and you may feel threatened at times. But if you value and respect your team more than your own pride and ego, they’ll likely feel motivated to yield better results.  

Build Your Communication Skills

Effective leaders always keep their doors open. 

People will bombard you with questions that you won’t always have the answers to. And when you don’t, finding a way, to be honest about it, it will develop a sense of transparency between you and the people you lead. Maintaining an open line of communication may seem difficult at first, especially as a student leader, but a bit of practice may help you get your message across more confidently. 

Don’t be afraid to be more vocal about issues or to express your emotions like any other human being. These are traits that make you more personable in the eyes of others. Take the time to develop and polish these skills as you continue to grow as a leader and learn how to become more confident.


Want to know how to be a leader? Learn to listen. And we mean really listen

Listen to what your teammates have to suggest. Listen to their comments, opinions, and feedback on matters that concern you and the rest of the group. By allowing them to express themselves to you directly, you can learn a thing or two from their thoughts and ideas. It shows that you’re a leader who values their input and appreciates their contributions. 

You might also want to pick up nonverbal cues like facial expression and body language, as they tend to be the most concerning. Active listeners know how to be a leader because of their capacity to empathize with others. 

Participate in Special Programs 

You can find several private firms and nonprofits that offer mentorship and leadership programs for students to take part in. Many of these institutions partner with schools to provide students the chance to develop their skills under the guidance of industry professionals. It’s a great way to meet and interact with future leaders who share the same passion and outlook as you do. 

So if you come across any programs that might interest you, make sure to grab the opportunity before it’s too late. Getting experience and building a network early on will open many doors for jobs for high school students!

Helpful Links:

Blog Article: Top Summer Programs for High School Students

Stay Active

Day-long seminars, training sessions, and group orientations aren’t for everyone. If these programs make you think twice, you might want to engage in volunteering activities as an alternative. 

Student-run fundraisers from your school council or annual events organized by the academy almost always need an extra hand to get everything together. While it might be glamorous upfront, being a part of the events committee will open your eyes to the reality of student leaders struggling to work gracefully under pressure. In addition to the friendships you make and the lessons you learn from the back end of the program, this opportunity also serves as a great platform for you to expand your skill set. 

Be a Role Model

Think about the people you look up to. Think about their capacity to lead. How do they influence you as a student leader?  

Leaders are often seen as an inspiration to the people they lead. This gives them the ability to foster a specific belief and transmit these qualities to the people that look up to them. As a student leader, people see you as a role model for others. But before the thought of being under the watchful eyes of critics puts a damper on your student leadership dreams, it’s best to see this more of a challenge than a hindrance. 

Having high standards for performance and achievement will push to become the best version of yourself. By modeling these student leadership qualities in a way that will influence others, you’ll begin to see the power of being an effective leader. 

Be Passionate

Would you trust someone to guide your group if they didn’t genuinely care about your goals as a collective?  

Being a leader also means being selfless at times. It’s about focusing on the goals of the team in order to reach every milestone together. Great leaders are committed to the process of creating a project as they are to meeting its deadline. This isn’t just a job tip for high school students, its also a tip for life. Oftentimes this zeal can be contagious, so don’t be afraid to express it with your team. 

Keep a Positive Attitude 

Positivity is a leadership trait that most people struggle with. It’s easy to feel defeated when things don’t go your way, especially when you put so much effort into making things right. 

But don’t throw in the towel just yet. 

Maintaining a positive attitude in the face of difficulty is a sign of courage and hope. As a student leader, you don’t want to discourage your team from trying harder. While this doesn’t mean viewing things from rose-colored glasses, it still wouldn’t hurt to stay optimistic during the most challenging times. 

Take Risks

As you work toward developing these student leadership qualities, you’ll be forced to make decisions that go beyond your comfort zone. It’s not always the best feeling at first, but you’ll soon discover it to be the most fulfilling. 

It will be a journey of exploration and self-discovery. You won’t know what you’re doing half of the time, but you’ll be surprised by your ability to overcome the things you were once fearful of. Start small at first, like learning a new language. After you get good, visit the country that speaks that language!

Transform Your “Me” to “We”

What’s the point of being a leader, when you have no one to lead? 

Keep in mind that the people you lead are sometimes a reflection of who you are as a leader. If you ignore your team and disregard their sentiments, they’ll most likely act out on it (as they should) and drive the entire group underwater. Acknowledge the importance of keeping your team’s best interest above your own. Allowing group participation is a good place to start. That way, you’ll understand how individualism and collectivism can work hand in hand during particular scenarios.  

Run for a Leadership Position 

There’s no doubt that running for a student leadership position will look good on your resume. 

But if your only goal is to fluff up your extracurricular profile, do everyone a favor and leave it to someone more deserving. Don’t be THAT person. 

What many people seem to forget is what the role truly entails for a student. You’ll have to exert twice as much effort on your school work than everyone else in your class. Not to mention the after-school meetings with the council, faculty members, and school admin. The position requires a level of sacrifice that can sound terrifying to a young leader, and a lot of factors can affect your decision to run. 

However, a student leadership position can also teach you valuable life lessons that not everyone has the privilege to experience. It’s an opportunity for you to build your network and pave a path for your future that you’ll forever be thankful for. 


To recap our student leadership, lets circle back to the key points of what makes a great student leader:

Table of Contents:

One of the most important things to cover here is offer value.

People in general don’t care about you. So how do you make them care? How do you make them LISTEN?

Offer value. Help your fellow classmates in a difficult math problem they are trying to solve. If someone is feeling sad cheer them up.

Do small things without expecting nothing in return. Why?

You’ll feel good about yourself. Your positivity will become contagious. People will notice. People will like you and want to be around you.

They will be more receptive to your advice.

That is how you instill leadership.

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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