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How can we create a community without leaders? What does it mean to be a leader? When we ask highly involved students if they consider themselves a student leader, they often they tell us they don’t. What is it about the term “leader” that intimidates students to take ownership for this role? Why is it that many students need to be told they are leaders and provided extensive amounts of training on leadership before they acknowledge the role that leadership involvement plays in their lives?

Leadership can be difficult to define. Is it a set of skills? A frame of mind? Do you claim that you are a leader? Or is it a role given to you by others? Residence Life leadership advisors and established leaders would say “yes” to all of these questions... and more.

Leadership is a way of life. Leaders make a commitment to themselves and others in an intentional way. One does not need a title to lead. Leadership is not about taking complete control but about working collaboratively with others. Leadership does not mean you are solely responsible for a task but that you are taking the initiative to coordinate, delegate, follow-through and ensure completion for a responsibility—whether a task or a larger goal or vision.

Leaders know how to lead and how to follow when other are leading. When a team of leaders gets together, they split up the work and the responsibility. As a team, they are all committed to the larger vision and goals of the group. They work together to make sure that all the tasks and responsibilities are completed and the group experiences success. Sometimes a leader is the coordinator and leads the group’s efforts. Sometimes the leader steps backs and allows others to lead and becomes an involved follower—role modeling for others how to be a strong participant. No leader should ever lead all the time!

Getting Involved

The best way to develop your own leadership is to get involved in a group where leadership development is a priority. Residence Life provides numerous ways for you to get involved in leadership activities and leadership involvement. The easiest thing to do is to ask your RA or AC how you can get involved. There are numerous organizations and opportunities outside of Residence Life to get involved in to development your leadership skills. The Office of Student Life (OSL) is another great place to start looking

More on Leadership

There are many leadership theories and models out there today. Residence Life follows a general model based on the workings of Kouzes and Posner, authors of numerous books and the Leadership Profile Inventory (LPI)—a leadership self-assessment offered by the Office of Student Life. The LPI is a great way for leaders, young and old, to take a look at their self-perceived practices relating to leadership.

In The Five Practices of Effective Leaders (2003), Kouzes and Posner speak of the behaviors and habits that highly successful leaders implement on a consistent basis. These habits fall within five categories:

  • Model the way
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the process
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart

In Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge (2003), they found that when leaders engage in the Five Practices, they:

  • Are more effective at meeting job related demands
  • Create higher performing teams
  • Foster loyalty and commitment
  • Increase motivation levels and willingness to work hard
  • Promote higher levels of involvement in their organizations
  • Possess high degrees of personal credibility
  • Are more satisfied with the leader’s actions and strategies
  • Feel more committed, energized, influential and powerful

We will work collaboratively with you to foster your student involvement and leadership development by creating involvement and training opportunities and development for current and emerging leaders.