In just a few short weeks, we will begin the process of selecting and electing new student leaders. We have a variety of ways for students to get involved on our campus. But there are some students who want to do a little more. They don’t want to simply be involved, they want to be influential. They are already thinking about stepping in and stepping up for one of our student leadership positions.
I always have my eye out for potential leaders. The process is more of an art form than a science. I want to be able to identify those students who appear to rise to the top and exhibit some natural leadership abilities at the start. Potential is often hard to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for. For some, it might be helpful to know what you’re NOT looking for. This might be as important as knowing what you ARE looking for.
Here are seven types of student leaders I try to avoid.
The “Hide Behind A Wall” Student Leader
This is the student leader who doesn’t communicate. This person will never talk to anyone about what’s going on with their position. This type of student leader doesn’t return phone calls or emails. If you ask them to contact someone he or she will fail to do it. This type of student leader fears contact with people. And failure to communicate will kill any potential that a student leader has to lead.
The “Flash In The Pan” Student Leader
This is the student leader who gets all excited and starts working on an idea and then leaves it hanging in the middle and doesn’t finish. This type of student leader is in love with trying something new, but drops a project as soon as the newness wears off and there’s work to be done. This person is only motivated by starting something. That motivation quickly dies if the idea takes longer than five minutes to implement.
The “Say Anything But The Truth” Student Leader
This is the student leader who is dishonest and lies. This type of student leader will say whatever is necessary to remove any form of blame or responsibility off of him or herself in order to save face. They will even make up stories to cover for their mistakes and/or failures. This student leader will make false claims, create fake stories to rationalize their behavior, and even act offended when confronted with the truth of a situation.
The “Pebble In My Shoe” Student Leader
This is the student leader who causes tension and division within the team. It could be their argumentitiveness, negative attitude, or unwillingness to work with others instead of against them. This type of student leader is always an irritant within the group and keeps the team of student leaders from reaching their potential. This person knowingly and unknowingly does things to pull others down or pit them against one another.
The “Perks Without The Price” Student Leader
This is the student leader that wants to be a student leader in order to feed his or her ego. This type of student leader sees the prestige of a position, but doesn’t realize that the position has responsibilities that must be taken care of. This person wants to be seen as a leader without ever actually leading. As soon as this type of student leader is confronted by a difficult situation, he or she does whatever is necessary to avoid it.
The “Seventh Inning Exit” Student Leader
This is the student leader that checks out early at some point during the student leader year. I talk about the separation season of student leadership. At the end of the year, everybody steps down from their positions. This is the type of student leader who leaves before their position is over. It’s like the person who gets up during the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game and never comes back. Often they miss the best part of the game. This person may be difficult to identify at first because he or she continues to hold the position, but they don’t do any of the work or give input to the work that their team is doing. They simply stop leading without really telling anyone that they’re done (but you can tell…you can always tell).
The “D.I.Y.” Student Leader
This is the student leader that tries to do everything him or herself. This type of leader is actually a student worker. He or she does the work but doesn’t involve anyone else in the process. They are leading no one. This student leader feels like it’s easier to do it him or herself instead of bringing alongside others to increase involvement and (actually) do a better job.
The Good News: There’s help for anyone who suffers from one of the above tendencies. One can learn to be a better student leader. Take a moment to walk back through the list and see if you can identify yourself in any of the leadership types. If you do, then simply call it what it is and begin to act in ways that will move you in the right direction.
Your organization needs student leaders…just don’t become the type of student leader that they don’t want.