Leadership does not require an official role—although, as you go through school, taking on a leadership role may be something you are interested in. Sometimes it means standing up for someone else, organising a group project or volunteering to pick up rubbish. Whether it’s a long-term commitment, or one small moment of action, leadership can make a big impact.
What makes a good leader?
‘Good leaders don’t see themselves as the biggest person on the block. They see themselves more like shepherds caring for their flock. They understand how vital it is to build good relationships. Good leaders care; great leaders serve’ (Bear Grylls).
There are many qualities that make good leaders stand out. The best leaders are the first to admit they have flaws, but they are communicators, collaborators, decision makers and strategic thinkers. They are organised, resilient and accepting of others. They listen and can manage risks. You too will need a chunk of these attributes—or at least an awareness of them—to be a good leader.
If you are looking for a blueprint of leadership to follow, as Christians, we have the best one. ‘If you want your life to impact others,’ writes Adventurer Bear Grylls in his book Soul Fuel, ‘there’s no finer leadership example to follow than Jesus’.
Leading at school: A quick FAQ
To lead or not to lead, that is the question … at least, it is the question you might be asking if you are approaching your final years of education. Schools are now introducing a range of roles to recognise and provide opportunities for students to lead in areas such as communications, arts, environment, culture and community service, each with varying levels of responsibility.
But what will I gain from a leadership position?
‘Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others’ (Jack Welch).
It is okay to have some internal motivation for taking on a leadership role—such as having a credential on your résumé or building your own skills—but it is important to question your motives. Are you only applying so that you get a special badge, or to look important? Or do you have a genuine interest to serve your peers? Are there things you want to change for the better, or work hard to maintain? Do you truly want to develop your leadership skills? These are all great things you can get from taking on an official role.
Remember, being a leader is also a chance to be an example of Jesus to others through your actions. ‘Prominent positions and public flattery are not good for some of us—we start believing our own hype when people treat us as special,’ Grylls writes. ‘Make it your goal to promote Christ, not yourself.’
Isn’t school leadership just a popularity contest?
If your school allows students to vote during the application process, then there is a chance you may be up against other students who have a large friendship group to back them, whether they are the best applicant or not. But does that mean the process is rigged? No.
Think about independent Members of Parliament, who compete against the main political parties. They believe strongly in what sets them apart. When they relate and resonate with the public, they often pick up a lot of votes, and sometimes even win their seat. The same principles apply for you.
If you have a vision, then express it with passion and embrace chances to make written or spoken presentations, even if it scares you. You might be surprised how many people are on your side.
Do these leadership positions actually count for anything outside of school?
At face-value, it can reflect favourably on your résumé to have held a leadership position at school, but once you get to an interview (e.g. for a scholarship, job or internship opportunity), it will only matter if you can show that you did something—or learned something. Put it this way: if you can provide concrete examples of ways that you have served your community or worked through problems as part of a team, that will matter far more than a badge or yearbook title.
If you apply for a role and miss out, then it is totally okay to feel disappointed, but remember there are lots of other ways you can make a difference without an official position. And if you find you are not so keen to do the extra work without the recognition of a title, that may be an indicator that you do not have the right motivations for leadership yet.
How can I lead—with or without a badge?
You would be surprised how many things you can volunteer to do—or might already be doing—to bolster your leadership skills.
Join a student council (your elected student leaders need help to put their ideas in motion. Often, you will learn just as much about leadership from helping them and being on the team as actually leading.)
- Take care of/babysit younger siblings, family or neighbours
- Sports coaching
- Youth leading
- Be a tutor, peer mentor or role model to another student.
‘It is in the quiet, unseen moments of simple kindness that we truly define ourselves,’ Grylls writes, ‘that’s leadership.’ Remember, if you do these things outside of an official role, or in your free time, it will be even clearer that you genuinely want to learn and see change happen.
What are you waiting for? Lead on!
Leadership Lessons from the Bible
Jesus … leaders make sacrifices, lead by example and practise servant leadership
Noah … leaders do what is right, even if they are the only one doing it
Abraham … leaders leave their comfort zone
Joshua … leaders get involved in the action
David … leaders are not afraid of giants
Isaiah … leaders take initiative
John the Baptist … leaders tell it like it is
Paul … leaders are passionate
Source: Doug Rice / 12most.com/2011/12/13/12-inspiring-leadership-lessons-bible-characters
Famous Former School Leaders
Check out some of these famous artists, politicians and athletes who were Head Girl or Head Boy at their school.
Christopher Eccleston and Matt Smith: Actors who played the Ninth and Eleventh doctors on the TV show Doctor Who.
Leigh-Anne Pinnock: One of the Four Vocalists in Little Mix.
J.K. Rowling: Author of the Harry Potter series.
Margaret Thatcher: Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, aka The Iron Lady.
Richie McCaw: Former All Blacks Captain.