10 Things A New Student Leader Should Know

Posted on September 3rd, 2013 in Perspectives on Leadership,Tips and Secrets by John Jensen

Welcome to the 2013-2014 Academic Year!  I am very excited to once again be back on the Leadership Blog to share with you different views on leadership, as well as tips, lessons, and important skills necessary to be an effective and positive leader.

To start off the academic year I would like to start by sharing with you 10 things that a new leader should know about leadership!  These suggestions are in no particular order and are from different leadership experts, leaders on campus, or myself.


  1. Take Chances – (Brian Goetsch ’13) Taking chances is an extremely important part of being a leader.  The drive to take a chance and take a risk is what sets leaders aside from everyone else.  A leader is willing to challenge the process and put themselves out there.  Take the risk of speaking up in the first meeting of your student organization this semester and in class!
  2. Don’t Assert Dominance – (www.fierceinc.comAccording to the blog at Fierce Inc. “Let’s say you go to your team with a brilliant idea and instead of singing your praises, they push back on it. What do you do? If your answer is to get defensive or pull the “I’m the boss, so there” routine you’ll see less and less people speaking up and more and more people tuning out. There will be times, in your career as a leader, when it is important to let those whom you lead know that you are the boss and you’re not messing around. However, when you assert dominance in the heat of the moment it says one thing: you can’t be trusted.”
  3. Relationships are everything – George Washington once said “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”  Surrounding yourself with individuals that are going to build on what you contribute and lead to joint success is extremely important.  Successful leaders have a core network of other leaders that are skilled individuals who help them to succeed.  Without other leaders and without followers there is no need to lead.   A leader that does everything of their own will is likely to make mistakes, anger others, and lose their status as a leader relatively quickly.
  4. Listen – Listening to others and making sure that other/variety voices are being heard is an extremely important part of being a leader.   Take the time to talk to others, ask open ended questions, and really listen.  Don’t be afraid of asking for advice or assistance.  No one will see you as week, in fact they will probably thank you for taking the time.
  5. Quick/Little Wins – This is something I touched on in my blog post describing my interview with Dave Kelly.  Look for little wins in your organization to help build up their confidence and your status as a leader.  Leadership does not equal position.  Becoming a leader can be as simple as being the one who volunteers to set up chairs before an event, giving your opinion in a meeting, etc.  Little wins will strengthen you for biggeropportunitities  in the future when you decide to run for a leadership position in your organization.  Do not expect to walk in, do nothing, and get elected; there is no meaning behind a win like that.
  6. Know Your Role Model – Choose a leader that you admire and try to emulate that person.  I think this is best described in Conan O’Brien’s commencement speech at Dartmouth in 2011, “Way back in the 1940’s there was a very funny man named Jack Benny.  He was a giant star and easily one of the greatest comedians of his generation.  And a much younger man named Johnny Carson wanted very much to be Jack Benny.  In some ways he was, but in many ways he wasn’t.  He emulated Jack Benny, but his own quirks and mannerisms, along with a changing medium, pulled him in a different direction.  And yet his failure to completely become his hero made him the funniest person of his generation.  David Letterman wanted to be Johnny Carson, and was not, and as a result my generation of comedians wanted to be David Letterman.   And none of us are — my peers and I have all missed that mark in a thousand different ways.  But the point is this: It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.  It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.”  The drive to be like a leader you admire will make you unique, but will also help you create your own definition of leadership.  In the process you will find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
  7. Chase authentic success – (Corey Ciocchetti) This is an idea that we are going to delve into sometime soon in a future blog post.  You should be chasing a life “filled with genuine contentment, strong personal relationships and a solid character.”  Don’t do something just to add it to your resume or to make the most amount of money.  In other words, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.” – David McCullough Jr.
  8. You are a servant.  By choosing to lead you are part of something bigger than yourself.  For a perfect example of servant leadership please read the blog post “Being Mr. G” from June 18, 2012.
  9. Start With Why – (Simon Sinek) Knowing the values, mission, and purpose of your organization is perhaps the most important aspect of leading a group of people.  I strongly encourage you to Google “Simon Sinek Golden Circle” and learn about how people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  If you don’t know why you do something, what you do becomes meaningless.
  10. Quit the things you don’t care about – Don’t waste your time or the time of others by wasting your time with things you don’t care about.  If you aren’t having fun with what you are doing and you don’t believe in the mission of the organization than anything you do is meaningless.  Joining an organization just to build your resume is a terrible reason to join.  It can be a reason, but not the only reason.  Enjoy what you do!

I hope this helps you start off your leadership journey!  If you have any questions about leadership you may contact me at JensenJA09@uww.edu or come to the Student Involvement Office in the UC.


“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” -Nelson Mandela

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