What Does It Take to Become a Leader?
Have you ever wanted to be more of a leader at your school? Maybe you want to be more visible, institute change, or earn more respect from your peers.
Understanding what makes an effective leader — and building your own leadership skills — is one of the most effective ways to get ahead in life. Not only will you be more equipped to become a manager or president of a business or organization someday, but you will also be someone whom others look up to and admire.
So how do you become a leader? According to Monica Teixeira, a former student advisor and leadership expert at Northeastern Illinois University, becoming an effective leader is all about being authentic.
“The idea is not to try to convince people to follow you. It’s about being yourself and being the best you can be, and others will see you as a leader,” she says.
Teixeira says one of the best ways to be a leader and inspire change is to determine what you are most passionate about and then set a goal for yourself that you would like to achieve. And by doing that, you will inspire others.
“For students in high school, they need to understand their purpose. They need to understand, ‘Why am I doing this?’” she says. “When you have something you’re really committed to and you never give up and keep working on that, people around you will notice.”
For example, if your life purpose is to inspire other people through music, you may have a goal of writing your own songs and forming a band. Or if your life purpose is to save animals from extinction, you may have a goal of becoming a zoologist or biologist or working for a nature conservancy. (For more ideas on how to pursue long term goals, read our blog about creating your own mission statement).
And even though you may be years away from writing your own Grammy-winning album or venturing into the jungle to work with disappearing wildlife, there are things you can do in high school to not only get you closer to your own goals, but to inspire others to join you as well.
Here are four tips Teixeira suggests for how you can be an authentic leader in high school.
1. Join Activities
One of the best ways to develop leadership skills in high school is to join activities and clubs that you care about. Think back to what your mission and purpose is, and then find some clubs that align with your passions. By being actively involved and committed to a club or activity, you will automatically become someone who is considered a leader in that group, which can be great on a college resume as well.
2. Be Ok with Failure
“One of the things I really teach my students is to replace the word failure with practice,” Teixeira says. She says many students are comfortable with the idea of practice when they are learning an instrument or playing a sport, but when it comes to taking on a leadership position, students often think if they make a mistake it means they have failed, so they avoid taking on leadership positions in the first place. Instead, trust that making mistakes is just part of learning.“Remember that success is a sequence of challenges, and sometimes you will fail and sometimes you will do well,” she says.
3. It’s Ok to be Shy
Teixeira says students also avoid taking on leadership positions because they think they are too shy to be leaders. But in fact, she says, introverted people can often be better leaders than extroverted people. She says we are often initially drawn to people who have big personalities and lots of charisma, but if those people don’t have the skills to really lead, their influence will be short-lived. On the other hand, introverted people in leadership positions tend to focus more on getting good results, which ultimately inspires others to follow them.
4. Create Relationships with Mentors
If you want to go far in life, you have to recognize when you don’t know everything and ask for help. That’s why it’s important to build relationships with people you respect who can give you advice.For students, forging relationships with teachers and other professional adults is a great way of getting emotional support to help you along your journey. Mentors may also suggest opportunities you hadn’t been aware of. For example, your mentor may tell you about scholarships to apply for, suggest places where you can get internships, or let you know about other outside organizations you could get involved in.“Having a group of supportive people really helps you get to the next level,” Teixeira says.
This is especially true if you come from a low-income household or you’re one of the first people in your family to go to college because your parents may not be able to give you advice about the next steps to take in your academic life or career. As Teixeira points out, “When you get to a certain point, you may not be sure what you really need.”
But, Teixeira warns, don’t just show up at a teacher’s office when you need something from them. Instead, try to build a meaningful, lasting relationship by having regular check-ins with the teacher and talking to them one-on-one. “Connect with them on a deeper level because they will look after you,” she says.
The Leadership Academy
Educational Endeavors supervised the first Leadership Academy in July 2018. Watch the video below to find out more!