Student Leadership

Leadership for Students: 10 Proven Ways to Succeed

Leadership for Students is a quick guide for high school and college students who want to become excellent campus leaders. In addition, I provide practical tips student leaders can use.

I write this article with Filipino students in mind, but the principles you will learn are universal in application. You will also find it beneficial to start with What Leadership Is, a guide for leaders who want to create breakthroughs.

You can print this guide and share this with your students. I only request that you send me an email to get permission. Share also your feedback as to how this guide is helping you develop your leadership skills.

Leading A Difference

MJ is a young leader who wants to get started in leadership fast. She dreams of becoming a manager someday because she wants to make a difference. Though she is preparing herself for a flight attendant job, she felt that helping others realize their dreams is more important.

“I want to help a lot of students get a good education”, she said. She laments that many students her age have chosen to get married rather than continue their studies. MJ is twenty years old.

“How many students do you want to help in the next five years?”, I asked.


I meet a lot of young people like MJ. They view leadership as an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

Young and old, we all can learn how to become better leaders.

How to Become an Effective Student Leader

I learned the importance of leadership when I was in primary school. I practiced leadership in high school when I got involved in student organizations. I realized that I was an excellent marketer and recruiter.

I was a student activist when I was in college. There, I learned the importance of having a clear and compelling vision and the ability to sell it to others.

I learned leadership by leading others. And what I am about to share with you is based on decades of experience. I admit that your leadership context is different from what I had when I was younger. But believe me when I say some principles and practices are timeless and universal.

I listen to students. [mfn] I interviewed students for this article to affirm the relevance of what I know and to provide you with fresher perspectives [/mfn]

Leadership for Students
student leaders

1. Begin now.

Contrary to common, but wrong beliefs, learning how to lead is easy, simple, and worthwhile.

A leadership title may help, but you don’t need a title to start leading. The best way to learn how to lead is to start leading.

If you have a healthy leadership disposition, the position will follow.

You can begin now.

Volunteer to lead a school project. Let everyone know that you are willing to take the lead. It is often the case that those with high grades get appointed to leadership. Do not wait for others to select you. Volunteer.

Join student organizations. You can begin as a member of a committee. And as you gain experience, volunteer to lead one. You can even suggest creating a committee you can lead.

You are in school to learn. You volunteer because you want to develop your leadership skills.

When I was in college, our school sent me to debate competitions. But there was no debate club in our school. So, I recommended the creation of one. And since nobody wanted to lead the group, I became its first leader.

I got rejected when I tried to join the theater group. They told me that I was too political. But I had no political agenda for trying to join the group. I only wanted to develop my acting skills further. So, I created my own theater group, and it grew three times bigger than the club that rejected me.

My point is simple. You can begin your leadership now.

You don’t have to wait until you become an expert. You don’t have to be elected into office to lead others.

As a student, you have opportunities to develop the leadership skills necessary to succeed professionally.

2. You don’t need a formula.

I wish there were a simple formula I can include in Leadership for Students. There were attempts to provide specific steps that everyone who desires to become a leader can follow. But following “prescribed” steps is like climbing Mt. Everest for the first time.

And doing it the second time, based on what I have read, does not make the journey easier.

However, student leaders can quickly get started when following a simple “formula.” Allow me then to share with you my CLAPS Formula.

Show students that you CARE. Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Sometimes, you get elected to a post because nobody wants it. But to become a leader, students need to trust you. Show that you care. Find out what other students aspire to and find out if you can help them.

LISTEN to others. Observe that many student leaders love to speak. They learned this from adults. Leaders talk all the time as if they have a monopoly on intelligence.

Listening is powerful too. By listening, you get to learn about the people you are serving. You will understand their needs, know their dreams, and discover their assets too.

I observed that most charismatic leaders are excellent listeners.

APPRECIATE others. The great thing about being a great listener is that you’ll know the assets of your people.

Most people don’t know what they’re good at. So once you discover people’s assets, be the first to sell these assets to them.

To appreciate is to increase value. So, increase people’s value before their eyes.

PROMOTE. As a student leader, you will improve yourself. You will develop skills that will make you thrive and succeed.

But although leadership begins with you, it is not all about you. So find ways to promote everyone. Help them become better students and leaders too.

SERVE. The most important lesson you need to learn about leadership is that it is service. You don’t get paid for this kind of service. In a sense, you become a great leader once you become a servant leader.

So, there. I have given you a simple “formula” of leadership that you can use from now on.

3. Pick a dream and pursue it.

Not every soul wants to climb Mt. Everest. There are those who cannot even climb stairs.

  • What is your best version of yourself?
  • What is your best version of your leadership?
  • Who do you want to lead? Where do you want to bring them?

These are all prompt questions. You have to answer many tough questions to clarify your leadership vision. Leadership begins with you. You cannot truly lead a multitude when you are lost.

Clarifying your personal vision isn’t a one-off activity. Your experiences and the people you are about to meet will help you.

I recommend you start with your personal values. That’s a safe place to start your journey.

4. Find your people.

Student leadership isn’t an abstract concept. Find the student you can serve.

If you are creating a student organization, your first concern isn’t process or prestige. You need to know the student you serve. All of them expect something from you.

You can find examples in the bigger world.

A pastor’s first job is not church building or doctrine. A pastor must look for the people he wants to serve.

Leadership isn’t about who to command; it is always about who you want to serve.

5. Know what leadership is.

There is no single definition that can capture the essence of leadership. My own definition has evolved through the years. Meeting good leaders enriches my perspectives.

And I realized that even if I write my definition in a paragraph, you will still interpret it from the lens of your experiences.

I encourage you to understand what leadership is from the perspective of leaders. [mfn] I wrote a post dedicated to understanding what leadership is. [/mfn]

6. Write your leadership principles.

One day you will write a book about your leadership principles. You don’t have to wait for that day. Sit down and write.

I wrote examples of leadership principles so you can start quickly. You don’t need more than 10. But others have more than twenty.

It is not in the number. It is in what you believe in. [mfn] Consider also your values and beliefs about leading people. I value bayanihan. I wrote about these Filipinos values.[/mfn]

7. List down your favorite leadership characteristics.

To quickly identify the qualities of good leaders you admire, consider those people who inspired and influenced you. That person could be your first-grade teacher, your parents, your boss, or someone you look up to.

You don’t have to mold yourself after someone. You are unique. However, because we are all connected, it is highly possible that some of the leadership characteristics you want for yourself are influenced by the people you admired.

I listed down leadership qualities to help you get started. Start with five qualities, then identify the behaviors that define these qualities.

8. Identify the skills you need.

Leadership competencies enable high performance. Competencies refer to the attitude, knowledge, skills, and abilities that help leaders achieve their goals. 

You can learn leadership competencies through deliberate training. Having many years of experience does not make a leader competent. The leadership competencies needed fifty years ago are no longer applicable today.

Of course, some skills like communication, planning, organizing, and motivating people are still relevant. But how we communicate, plan, organize, and motivate has changed.  Time has changed.

9. Know your strengths.

To get started fast, you don’t need to master every leadership skill there is. Begin with what you have.

To identify your strengths, consider who you are at your personal best.

10. Seek opportunities for leadership.

At work, volunteer to lead a committee. This will provide you with an excellent education to lead people.

Join organizations that serve others. Volunteer in your community.

In your next meeting, volunteer to do an energizer. Lead an opening prayer. There are opportunities to become a better leader in big and small ways.


I have written dozens of articles and notes on leadership. I encourage you to explore the pages of this website. I am sure that some ideas and tools can help you on your journey to becoming a good leader.


I write articles to answer questions. At times, I need to write a series of articles to answer one question. An article may also answer any questions.

Most articles are longer than notes (Make It Happen posts). The intention is to guide new leaders and to provide them with actionable ideas.


I write about leadership and teamwork at least once a week.

I write my insights every day. I learn from my experience with people. I am a student and every human experience can potentially teach me. I share tools and canvasses I use in my workshops and webinars.

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