5 Ways to Develop Leadership Skills in College


People look to great leaders not to tell them exactly what to do, but to guide them by example. Good leaders know how to walk alongside those who they lead. They understand how to motivate others and work towards a common goal, all the while being sure that everyone within the group has their needs met.

Employers need great leaders. Business owners must be great leaders, too. As such, it is important for college students to develop leadership skills during their course programs. So, how do you develop leadership skills in college? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Sign Up for Work-Study

Most colleges have work-study programs in which students work a certain number of on-campus hours. When you first start in a work-study position, there may not be a lot of opportunities to lead. However, if you stick with it, the more experienced students will often be promoted into leadership roles. You may end up responsible for scheduling the other work-study students in your workplace, or for training the new work-study students in your role. This is a great opportunity to learn how to lead your peers in a low-stress situation.

Join an Honors Society

Ask your student advisor about the honors societies that are active on your campus. Research each of them, and choose one to join. Often, these honors societies elect students to serve as chapter leaders. After some time spent learning and getting to know the society, you could run for office. This would be great way to not only get some leadership experience, but also some political experience.

If running for office within an honors society is not for you, then there are probably some smaller, more isolated events organized by the group that you could help lead. For example, you may be able to step up and help organize a fundraiser or a recruiting seminar.

Mentor Younger Students

If you would prefer to start off with a more personalized leadership role, see if your campus has a program for student mentors. As a junior or a senior, you may be able to sign up to mentor incoming freshmen. This gives you a chance to walk alongside just one or two other people, honing your listening skills and your ability to relate to others. Those are key leadership skills that can easily translate to larger group settings one day.

Become a Resident Advisor

Resident advisors are older students to live in the dorms. Their job is to oversee the younger students. They make sure everyone is comfortable and safe, they organize group dorm activities, and they make sure important safety information gets passed on to student residents. Being an RA is a great opportunity to develop your leadership skills with a larger group, and often, the school will pay for your housing costs if you sign onto this position. That’s a win-win situation for sure.

Become a Teaching Assistant

Professors often hire teaching assistants, especially for their larger classes. As a TA, you might lead recitations, which are group sessions where you’ll review the material with students and answer their questions. You’ll likely also hold office hours where students can meet with you for extra help. It’s like being a tutor, but in a more structured way with more leadership involved.

Students who develop leadership skills in college often excel once they enter the workplace. So, consider taking one or more of the paths above to gain some leadership experience during your college years. College can be — and should be — about more than simply attending class. 

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