Monday, 7 April 2014

8 Characteristics to Look for in a Student Leader


With the last week of classes here, it’s time to start finishing up our final papers, putting the finishing touches on our assignments, power reading the final few chapters of our text books, and getting ready for exams…. AND, I’m going to suggest that we take a few moments to try and really appreciate the people that we’ve had around us all year. We are fortunate enough to have strong and positive community of students in our classrooms, residences, student groups, and in student governance. Each one of us contributes to our campus, and hopefully we have each been able to positively impact one another. 

This week, YouAlberta will be celebrating a few of the individuals who have made an effort to improve your student experience this year. Some might call these individuals leaders, others might simply see them as that face that they see around campus, while others still would just call them “friend.” 

Before we meet them, we thought that it would be a good idea to take a look at what draws us to embrace and support one another. Here’s what Erin was able to find out for us:


Graduating from the Emerging Leaders Program
Caitlin Field receives her ELP certificate from pleased Dean of Students' Frank Robinson and an ecstatic Rory Tighe (former SU President)


It’s easy to spot the leaders of our campus community – we often know who they are because of the work that they do. I was curious to learn more about what else they have in common, so I asked Caitlin McLeod, a recent graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), a co-curricular course that uses the social change model of leadership to help students build the skills that will help them to become confident leaders.  After talking to Caitlin about her experience in the program, I learned a few things. 

Although there are lots of leaders on our campus, the ones that really stand out are the ones that inspire positive change. Leadership styles vary greatly, but positive leaders seem to be the most successful. Here are some things they have in common: 

Positive leaders…


1) Are self-aware

Presenting self


 “By developing a clear understanding of your own leadership style,” Caitlin explains, “you are able to further explore your leadership potential. For example, ELP equips you with the tools to not only recognize your weaknesses, but to also improve upon these skills.”


2) Embrace Diversity


Soaring to New Heights - Student Leadership


It’s “inspiring to see what others [are] able to contribute to the university, local or global community,” Caitlin says. Accepting the strengths and insights of others and learning to look beyond your own experience can help to increase your network of support while also ensuring that you have a greater wealth of knowledge to draw upon to. 


3) Problem Solve and Collaborate

Solving Problems One Thread at a Time


Leaders cannot exist on their own (after all, you can’t be a leader with nobody to lead). Instead, leaders should help to inspire and support a team, each of whom will have the ability to positively impact the goals of the group. Knowing and recognizing the strengths of yourself and others can allow for the development of creative solutions to problems both old and new. 


4) Accept Controversy with Civility


Listen To and Acknowledge Different Persepctives


In any organization, leaders will face controversy. Whether it’s a major issue, or a small disagreement, not everybody gets along 100% of the time. The strongest leaders are optimistic in the face of controversy, are able to accept different viewpoints, and lead with grace even during difficult situations.  


5) Empathize

Share



Not only should leaders be able to recognize the viewpoints of others, they should also be able to truly understand where others are coming from, and how things might make them feel. Someone who can empathize with others is more able to lead in a way that is respected by others. 


6) Possess a Commitment to Action

Work Together for a Goal


Leaders are the driving force of organizations. They need to be able to commit to a goal, create an action plan, and follow it through to the end. In taking those actions, however, positive leaders not only have to take action, they have to incorporate all of the traits and skills that I’ve already mentioned in order to make the action positive action. 


7) Ethical Engagement and Citizenship

Engage


Leaders need to support the people in their organization and their needs, and should not be focused solely on their own individual desires. The best leaders are able to meet the needs of all members of their group, not only certain members or the majority. Being a leader is all about making decisions that impact people, and positive leaders are able to make decisions that make their group or project better for everybody. 


8) Inspire




After her experience in the Emerging Leaders Program, Caitlin revealed that, “you discover new ways of leading and igniting leadership in others. Supporting and engaging others to become effective leaders themselves is an important goal for anyone in a leadership role.” Leaders rarely stay in their roles forever, so it is important to support those around you, help them to reach their potential, and to inspire them to take on leadership roles in the future. 

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About the Author

















My name is Erin and I’m going into my eighth, and final, year at the University of Alberta. When I grow up, I want to be a fairy princess… but since the U of A doesn’t offer that program, I am working on completing my Bachelor of Elementary Education.

I can usually be found consuming excessive amounts of caffeine in the library, volunteering with my sorority sisters, or hitting up the latest campus events.

What I love most about the U of A is how different the experience is for everyone, and how many experiences each student can have. I hope to share my stories and yours, so that together we can discover what this amazing campus has to offer!

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