What Makes A Student Leader

Nov 30, 2010

“The real leader has no need to lead--he is content to point the way.” -Henry Miller

For a long time, I thought that being a leader meant being in charge and telling everybody else what to do. When I joined my school’s Student Leadership Committee, I learned that it’s not about being “the boss.” All the members of the group tried to be “in charge” at once and because of this the group fell apart. I learned an important lesson about being a student leader. Leadership is about influence, good people skills, commitment and knowing when to show the way rather than to lead the way.

According to Kurt Lewin, there are 3 types of leadership: autocratic, participative, and free rein. Autocratic leaders are the leaders who control everything. They are considered to be dictators. Free rein leaders are “leaders” that allows complete freedom to pretty much whatever to subordinates, or the people inferior to his/her rank or status. Lastly, participative leaders are leaders who gives instructions after consulting with the group.

Determining the best type of leadership depends on the situation. For student leadership, I think that the type of leadership for a student leader is participative. In a student leadership committee, there are plenty of other student leaders and we all are kind of the go-to people. As a student leader, I’ve had many students come up to me and say “We want this for our school.” What I would do is take it back to the committee and consult with them. This is what makes us participative leaders. We plan together, we work together, and we make things happen together. It is important for a student leader to understand that its a team effort and we can all be leaders together.

An important thing to realize when you’re a student leader you have to take your role seriously because the rest of the student body is watching you. When I applied for a Student Leadership position, two of the requirements were good grades and good attendance. At first, I was a little skeptical and didn’t understand why these two things were necessary, but I soon learned why they were requirements. Student leaders have the power to influence other students. If I came to school late or got a bad grade, one of the first things students would say was “aren’t you a student leader?” or “how are you coming to school late and you’re a student leader?” My peers were watching me and they were looking up to me. Many other students at The Catholic University Of America agreed that being a student leader is about setting an example. Kelly O’Connor, a former student there, stated “leadership means stepping up and being an example to those around you..” After realizing this, I started to be mindful of the things I said and did.

Commitment is a key role in being a student leader. It also happened to be our biggest problem that we had within our committee last year. A lot of the Student Leaders stopped showing up because some of us had gotten after school jobs, some had joined the basketball team and some had to use the time after school to make up work. After all of this, only a few student leaders were left. If you want to join the committee, you have to make sure your schedule doesn’t interfere. Of course, we still made things work but we could have gotten a lot more done. As a student leader, you have to be able to organize.

Lastly, you have to have good people skills. Student leaders interact with everybody in the school. Even our less favorite people. When a student gets out of character, as a student leader, we have to keep our cool. This is something I’ve had problems with that I’m slowly overcoming. We have to know how to address people and remain professional. Without this skill, it is pretty much impossible to be a successful student leader.

All of these things makes a student leader. I haven’t been the “perfect” student leader but I’ve done my best. I’ve also learned a lot from the experience. I think that this is the most important thing: that you get something from the experience.


* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership
* http://www.inspirational-quotes.info/leadership.html
* http://leadership.cua.edu/profiles.cfm


I used this essay for a state competition.