Leadership is not about position or title, power or authority, celebrity or wealth, family or genetics. It’s also not just something for a chosen few. It’s about an observable set of skills and abilities that are useful wherever you are. As a skill, leadership can be strengthened, honed, and enhanced, given the motivation and desire, along with practice and feedback, role models, and coaching.
Ours is an imperfect world. And yet there remains the promise that students will become the transformative leaders of today and tomorrow. It’s their vision, their values, and their beliefs that will shape the direction of our world. We need more exemplary leaders, and we need them now more than ever. There is so much extraordinary work that needs to be done.
How can we determine not only who is a competent student leader, but a good leader? Using these seven characteristics you can priorities your options out of many.
1) A sense of purpose: The values of a student leader must be clear, members of the student community should know them, and they should exemplify and uphold them in their own actions.
2) Justice: Student Leader in an organization should be held to common standards, with rules and procedures that are clear, firm, fair, and consistent.
3) Temperance: A student leader must strive to maintain a proper balance of emotions; it does not mean that leaders should be dispassionate. Quite the contrary- but there is times for passionate advocacy and times for quiet reflection and reconsideration. Balance is the key.
4) Respect: The dignity of each individual is the concern of any leader, and this is preserved by treating all members of the student community with respect and ensuring they treat one-another similarly, regardless of differences.
5) Empowerment: Leaders are just that- leaders. Most of what happens in organizations is carried out by individuals other than those in formal leadership positions. Therefore, the more skilled they are, the more they feel confident in their abilities and competent to make decisions, raise questions, see new possibilities, and disagree respectfully with others at all levels of the organizational hierarchy, the stronger and more successful the organization will be.
6) Courage: Leaders are paid to set direction, not wait for direction to emerge. Student Leader has to be willing to follow their convictions and bring the student community to new places. In education, this is most sorely needed in response to the test-based regimen that has taken over our schools/college at the expense of true education and social-emotional and character development.
7) Deep Commitment: Student Leaders must not be polishing their resumes, but rather should have deep commitment to the student community, the advancement of the community missions, and the well-being of everyone in them. It is this deep commitment that makes leadership in schools so challenging, because it requires a commitment to every employee, student, and parent.
The performance of a leader must be judged by his or her skills and the character of his or her performance in the many and complex roles that leadership demands. Using the seven cornerstones of leading with character, have a tool for both evaluating and improving leadership competencies along both moral and performance dimensions of students.