Dakota Doman | Director of Student Life and Services University of Houston – Victoria | Extracted from CLT Magazine – Winter 2015
Colleges and Universities spend a significant amount of time and money attempt- ing to prepare students on how to become leaders. Whether its through formalized leadership programs such as LeaderShape, sending them to APCA conferences and events, organizational leadership positions within Student Government, or via administrative departments for student development and leadership, higher education institutions are no longer solely interested in developing the academic mindset of students, but also strive to educate students on what it takes to become a leader.
While I applaud the efforts of these institutions, it is very difficult for students to truly gain an understanding of what it takes to become an effective leader. Most students feel as though leadership is a title. If you were recently voted as president of Student Government, or given an executive position within your sorority, or landed that awesome work-study position in the Dean of Students Office then you are now considered a qualified leader correct? WRONG!!
Leadership is a servant position. If we examine the most prominent historical leaders in history, these were not individuals that would be construed as self-serving. I often encounter self-acclaimed student leaders. A self-acclaimed student leader is an individual who feels as though she or he is a leader due to achieving a certain status on campus. “I have been in SGA for 3 years, I am a leader.” Comments such as those perpetuate the fallacy that leadership is contingent on a position.
The sports-themed beverage, Gatorade, has a current slogan that asks a simple question of “Is it in you?” Gatorade was invented almost half a century ago; how- ever, its current motto embodies the same inquisition that I pose to students.
Is leadership in you?
Are you willing to sacrifice your personal interest for the sake of the public good? Do you have courage in your convictions to make the unpopular decision and defend your position amongst a group of irate peers? Do you have the ability to encourage people to rise up and take action against an injustice? If the answer to these questions were a resounding “YES!” than leadership is undoubtedly within you. It is my contention that many people have leadership attributes within themselves, but how do they demonstrate the appropriate qualities? I have interacted with stu- dent leaders in one capacity or another in the past ten years, and the three consistencies that make for a good leader are:
Communication, Courage, and Consistency.
There is an old proverb that says, “Life and death lies within the power of the tongue.” This idiom simply suggests that communication is perhaps one of the most important things we can do; however, most people suffer from the inability to adequately communicate with each other. Student leaders typically struggle with communicating with administration and other student leaders. One tip to combat this issue would be to always respectfully express the emotions you are experiencing. If you are in a meeting with a fellow student or advisor, and you feel angry because of something they said, it is appropriate to respectfully say, “I feel displeasure because of your statements or actions.”
A good leader must have courage. Courage is simply the ability to do something even if it is frightening. A great student leader will not be discouraged because of a difficult task.
Finally, a great student leader must be consistent. I often encounter students who are filled with passion and are excited about making a change on campus. When that excitement wears off, the student changes completely. In order to be respected, a student leader must exhibit a certain level of consistency. The things that we enjoy most in life are the things we can continuously count on.