I always stated that real leadership is not about you, but it’s about the people you lead.

What is leadership?  John Maxwell stated in one of his books that leadership is about influence.  I’ve always remembered that and thought that his words were absolutely brilliant.  Leadership in your influence on others.

So, as a student leader in high school or college, I have a few thoughts that I think could inspire the person you want to be and the leadership role you desire in your community, school, or work place.

Here are 5 Tips to being a great student leader in life:

1.  Be Authentic – Don’t compromise the person you are for anyone or anything.  Once you are willing to change your character or your stance on something then you become vulnerable and possibly are willing to change on other things.  For example, I am big, bald, have earrings, tattoos, and I am opinionated.  Yes, this can rub people the wrong way, but in the end I’ve made a very fulfilling career at being who I am and standing for what I believe in.  The bottom line is that as leaders we would rather be respected for who we are than hated for who we are not.  I don’t compromise my character for anyone or anything.  I am not willing to be someone else to seek approval.  That doesn’t mean I am not always learning and willing to grow as a leader and as a person.

2. Trustworthiness – This is in two parts.  First you have to trust in yourself as a person.  Secondly, you have to have trust from your peers, because if you don’t have their trust you are left leading nobody.  Therefore, your doubts in who you are will also lead to a demise in self-esteem and eventually you won’t want yourself leading you either.

You have to be trusted in decisions you make and you have to be trusted by your peers in how you treat them.  The biggest question your peers will ask of you as a leader is this:  “Do you care about me?”

Also, as a leader remember the 4C’s – Be Cool, Be Calm, Be Collected, and always Be in Control of your emotions.

3.  Be Strong – Be strong in your mind, body, and spirit.  You will be questioned.  You will be ridiculed.  You will be made fun of.  You will be challenged.  Are you willing to back down?  Are you willing to compromise who you are or the decisions you have made.  It’s ok to accept that you made a mistake and if you did, own it, and take responsibility.  We are not perfect and we learn every day, but true leaders realize that they are not perfect.  The bottom line is you have to be strong in your self-esteem, confidence, in your body, and your spirit can never be broken.  The spirit is about the cause and the purpose for why you are a leader.  Don’t compromise your character.

4.  Focus on the Objective – Too often as leaders we have such high expectations.  Learn to lower your expectations of how you are to be treated as a leader or the expectations of people doing their jobs and focus on the objective.  The objective is why you are doing it.  The purpose of it.  Be clear in delegating authority and teach others to focus on the objective too.  Focus on the reason why and not so much the outcome, because if you take pride in the reason, everyone will take pride in the work which will produce a favorable outcome.  We have no control over the outcome, but we have control over the every day work we do.  Expectations bring nothing but disappointment.

5.  Enthusiasm – Don’t mistake this for being loud.  Enthusiasm is being the leader and getting others to want to follow in your lead.  Every day you have to set an example for which others will follow.  Your enthusiasm is alike a ripple in the water.  Keep it simple.  Be strong.  Be positive.  Be uplifting.  Be in the front.  Be honest.  Be courageous.  Lastly, be a leader that is respected and one that acts with courage.

Being a leader is a great responsibility.  Leaders are always seeking to improve and grow.  Where do we start in becoming a leader one will ask?  Great question.  You start today by getting involved.  Get in the action, but remember you have to learn to follow before you can learn to lead.


Jeff Yalden is a youth motivational speaker who travels the world speaking at high school assemblies and youth leadership conferences.  His work has been featured in Long Island Newsday, MTV MADE, and he has spoken literally all over the world.  From Southeast Asia to Europe and every Province in Canada along with all 50 states. Visit Jeff Yalden at www.JeffYalden.com.

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