I just returned from Boston. I spent four days there with my newly elected and selected student leadership team. It was a fantastic trip.
We made the journey from Boise to Boston to attend a Leadership Conference. What we ended up with was an incredible time of group bonding, tremendous experiences, great sight-seeing, unbelievable food, and a lot of memories. What we didn’t get was very much leadership training.
Don’t get me wrong…I had a blast. We built friendships and captured a lot of pictures. We simply didn’t get much in the way of leadership development. In the midst of all of the fun, that part kind of bugs me.
Fortunately, I make my living at developing student leaders. Our group will be just fine. But I keep thinking about the investment of time and money that went into this trip. I keep wondering what my students took from the experience that equips them to be better leaders.
This post is a response to those thoughts. If I was planning a leadership conference, these are the types of questions I would ask before I put one sight-seeing event on the schedule. If I were speaking at your leadership conference, these are five areas I’d focus on in training and developing your student leaders.
1. You need to lead you before you can lead them.
I recently released an entire book (Leadership Starts With You) dedicated to this subject. Successful leadership starts with self-leadership. Time and again, student leaders get tripped up by poor personal choices more often than making a mistake on the job.
2. Your influence is closely related to your level of responsibility.
Leadership doesn’t start with a position, it starts with accepting responsibility. Your position is merely a platform. Your influence grows when you take your position seriously and begin to produce results and build relationships that work toward a compelling future. An effective leader relates to those who follow, not because they have to, but because they want to.
3. Every need and every problem is an opportunity for leadership.
Leaders are necessary because there are needs and there are problems. Leaders are problem-solvers. I have students who never aspire to leadership, yet they find themselves leading others because they found a cause worth investing in.
4. If you can communicate clearly, you can lead others.
Leaders understand their greatest communication skill isn’t the ability to speak, it’s the willingness to listen. I want students to understand that important messages need to be repeated constantly. Leaders integrate mission, vision, and values into every message.
5. You have to get others involved.
So many students are elected or selected to a student leadership position, then end up doing everything by themselves. That’s not a student leader, that’s a student worker. The student leader’s task is to find student workers to invest in and develop into student leaders. Student leaders understand their strengths and find others to complement and thrive in their areas of weakness. They create and add value to a team of people.
Almost everything I teach and train on flows out of these five areas. If we’re going to call these amazing young people, student leaders, they need to be leading. They need to move from involvement to influence. They need to see their position as a platform to accomplish some great things with the help of others. I’m dedicated to providing tools, resources, and experiences that move them in that direction.
In the end, whether it’s a leadership conference, seminar, workshop, or one-on-one, you have to ask yourself: Are my students going to be and become better leaders as a result of this experience?