5 Leadership Traits I Learned in College

How You Can Use Them To Help Yourself and Others

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I have had the opportunity to participate in several leadership events and have held a few leadership positions as well on campus during my three years at college so far. I spoke at a Young Men’s Leadership Conference in front of hundreds of 6th and 7th graders. I’m in my second year as a Resident Assistant for upperclassmen and give tours to prospective students as a Student Ambassador. I have been active in many different clubs including our Ski and Outdoor Club.

Why mention all these activities though? Many leaders we personally know have likely learned some of their best tricks and tactics while in school or at other organizations. For me I have learned many of these from supervisors and my own peers as well.

Be Adaptable

Leaders need to learn how to be adaptable. The world moves fast. Think of our life just 6 months ago. America was still business as usual and within a few days business shuttered their doors, schools sent students home, and millions filed for unemployment. Every decision at that time was critical and leaders were forced to become adaptable and utilize technology for their teams. My college administrators were faced with the difficulty.

A few months later when we began to open again, leaders were faced again with a new challenge. They were challenged to successfully open their business while complying with many new health standards. Masks were needed almost everywhere, hand sanitizer became a new staple of everyday life, and we were told to distance ourselves from others.

While we have the same schedule everyday for 15 weeks in college, every day presents new challenges. Because of how quickly something can change in college or an incident can arise with a resident, we must be adaptable to change our plans with friends or make ourselves present and be there for our residents.

Be A Follower

Very few leaders become great just be leading, they must be following a group or organization before leading it. In order to even apply for the Student Ambassador position, an applicant must be at the college for at least one year. Most freshman are followers when they first come to college because they have very little idea what to expect.

If you attended higher education, think back to your Freshman year. Did you know everything about the college within a week? Did you know what the best time to get food was? Were you able to manage all your new responsibilities? If you succeeded at all of these, congratulations! In reality most of us struggle in our first few weeks of college and we turn to RAs, upper-classmen, or professors.

Have A Watchful Eye

This is a very broad statement. Having a watchful eye can mean being able to spot danger before an incident occurs, knowing when someone is hiding emotions, or anything in between. As a leader, you typically develop this sense over time.

When on a college campus or a city at night, you might become more observant of the people, buildings, and objects around you. This is one of the major parts of having a watchful eye. You can observe and understand more of the world than you might typically in a comfortable environment.

Another major attribute to having a watchful eye is being able to spot emotions or a change in behavior from a member on your team. We all have a life outside of college or work and those lines (especially now) become very blurred. Work-life balance is difficult today so it’s important to check in with your team every now and then or organize activities that help boost morale and build relationships.

Emotionally Strong

In my opinion, this is the one I struggle with the most. A leader is typically seen as someone who has emotions compared to that of a brick wall. Wrong. We’re all humans and different events impact different people.

If a resident approaches me and wants to talk about an event that occurred, I have to do my best to put aside my emotions and opinions and let them tell their story. I might become furious with some information that they share with me or hearing their story could lead me to have anxiety.

I was taught to stay strong, but empathetic in a situation like this. This can be extremely difficult, but having an open-minded supervisor helps. In this case its important have a leader above you or at least another coworker to talk through the situation with and help process your feelings.

Unintentionally Inspiring

This last trait really can’t be taught, it must be earned. You typically won’t know when you are inspiring someone as they may be unwilling to speak to you or relay it to you.

I wasn’t aware of this either until recently when a resident responded to one of my several emails one day. It seemed like none of my emails were being read, which is typical, then he responded to one asking to meet.

You might be working at a job for only a few weeks and feel that your work isn’t being seen or appreciated. I can almost guarantee that somewhere in your managerial pipeline or around the office, another person is seeing the great work you’re doing. Always work as hard as you can, even when no one is watching.


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