Best for the Job

This Hot Topic covers some helpful hints when searching for the leaders of your group.

Selection Tips

Ask current leaders and members for the names of students that have shown leadership ability. Invite these students to run for an office, or invite them to participate in an Exec. Board meeting. Remember, not all students see themselves as capable of acting in a leadership role. They will be much more open to the idea when it is approached as an opportunity rather than a duty.
Possibly schedule a meeting with current leaders and candidates. Have current leaders express what they got out of being a part of the leadership team. Enthusiasm is contagious and you may be able to infect more students with the leadership bug.
Make the organization aware that Graduate School programs and employers are looking for people with proven leadership skills. This will attract students with goals and aspirations.
Celebrate excellence with leadership awards. Many students will find inspiration from seeing others awarded for their academics and/or leadership roles.

Election Tips

Always take elections seriously. Provide all candidates with information on leadership expectations and roles. If they are to make speeches, give then advance notice and time.
Restrict the number of candidates that can run for a given position. Some members may make excellent committee members in other positions.
Require candidates to list what their previous experiences in leadership roles have been.
Cultivate future candidates by inviting them to meetings run for the Exec. Board only.
Ask members to think about why they are voting and importance of elections. Remind them that a good Exec. Board can make a big difference in the number and quality of events that are run and affect the reputation of the organization.

Teach Basic Leadership Skills Early

It is amazing how quickly you can teach someone basic leadership skills when your students are interested in being leaders. Some of the skills you might want to teach are: chairing meetings, listening, brainstorming, setting agendas, etc.

The teaching of these skills can be done in a variety of ways: leadership workshops and retreats, one-on-one advising, instant feedback, brief noon-hour workshops, video guest speakers, and, of course, daily as you carry out the semester.

Set A Personal Example of Good Leadership

Your student leaders are very quick to learn what works and incorporate it into their own style. Never underestimate the ability of your students to observe and evaluate your behavior as an adviser. Ask yourself some of the following questions: Am I on time? Am I organized? Do I follow through on my promises? Do I thank those that help or participate? Do I keep an accurate calendar of events and commitments? Do I respect the established rules of procedure in a meeting? Am I willing to sacrifice when needed? As an adviser, you will always have numerous opportunities to teach leadership skills in a passive fashion.

Have Your Executive Run A Workshop For Class Reps
Many advisers run a workshop or retreat for their executive group of elected leaders. You may also find it very beneficial to have this group run a half or full day workshop for the board reps. This will allow them to pass on skills they have learned and it does wonders for the image of leadership.

Well Run, High Profile Elections Are Critical
The approach of your students to elections is critical. Make a big deal of elections and be sure your student leaders are actually putting the candidates through the elections you will be amazed how much the candidates are learning from the incumbents.

Attitudes And Characteristics of Leadership

The following list describes common attitudes and characteristics of leadership: genuine interest in people, enthusiastic, open, sense of humor, loyal, works well with others, organized, does fair share of work, self-motivated, express true feelings, communicates effectively, fair, dependable, creative, patient, common sense, prompt, responsible, good example, listens, cooperative, and self-confident.

Stressing Ability + Attitude + Aptitude

Winning an election or being appointed to a position, or joining a class isn’t all there is to being a leader. In fact, the real work to develop attitudes, abilities, and aptitudes begins in the first months following the call to leadership. Potential student leaders must have the right attitude and the aptitude to start on the path to leadership. The following list is intended to start you, the adviser, on the path of promoting leadership skills in your potential leaders.

1) Require students to used a day planner. Student leaders are busy people. You will do them a big favor getting them in the habit of using a planner that includes a list of important phone numbers, schedules, dates, and obligations.
2) Identify failure as a step towards success rather than a step backwards. Often, we don’t allow students to fall or make mistakes because we think it is a negative reflection upon the adviser. However, failure is sometimes needed to help students learn from their mistakes.
3) Ask students to identify a leadership role model. This does not have to be a famous person. A grandparent, a friend, or a community member – someone who isn’t larger than life – could make a great role model.
4) Teach them how to make a simple speech. This will show them how to organize their thoughts and think on their feet. There are many opportunities to practice this skill. Make sure that everyone gets a chance more than once.
5) Stress the importance of the combination of a good handshake and a smile. This is one of the first ways to make a good impression. It is a truly useful and portable skill now and later in life.

We all know that leaders require the right attitude and abilities for their position, but advisers must not neglect the aptitude of their leaders – their readiness for leadership. If your students can demonstrate the abilities listed here, they will be ready for the leadership challenges ahead of them.


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