What does it take for college students to complete their college education successfully? Surely, high grades are the first thing that comes to mind. You might be tempted to say that a good GPA is the ultimate indicator of success. And you have a point.
Clearly, grades matter. My intention is not to downplay the importance of academic excellence in any way, shape, or form. But I feel there’s more to it than just diligent, meticulous study. In the corporate world, companies have long come to start appreciating soft skills (e.g., communication, leadership, teamwork, and others) in addition to hard skills (i.e., job-related, technical skills).
Many management consultants go so far as to argue that hard skills are ineffective if people cannot communicate or work with others. In many ways, it is the same for the education sector too. Student leadership matters for all stakeholders involved, whether it be students themselves, tutors, or administrators.
No one knows this better than the students with leadership experience. Research shows that leadership experience increases the willingness of students to lead by example and contribute. It benefits all, and the benefits are long-term. Let me show you how.
It helps students with their academic performance
Better leaders make better students. In many respects, leadership implies a combination of skills, approaches, and practices that are critical for achieving academic excellence. Multiple surveys corroborate this by showing how leadership enhances academic performance from both short and long-term perspectives.
Leadership experiences also enhance learner autonomy, i.e., the capacity of students to make decisions and act independently to advance their educational goals. This is an important skill that will stick with students throughout their lives and careers. It will prove helpful no matter what area of activity or job they will end up choosing.
At times, college students get extremely busy with their college assignments. Under such circumstances, they often turn to professional writers with a request to “do my essay” to meet their college requirements. This is a proven way to avoid procrastination and complete assignments in due course.
It prepares students for real-life experiences
When students are given opportunities to practice leadership skills throughout their college life, they are put in a position to succeed in their careers too. There are many ways in which colleges and tutors can promote leadership skills among students by offering specific opportunities to practice them through formal or informal leadership positions, team projects, strategic planning, and creative initiatives.
The students who have had a chance to participate in such projects report higher levels of confidence, motivation, and drive to aspire for greater success for themselves and their peers.
It is not less important than hard skills in any walk of life
Multiple research points to the importance of soft skills irrespective of the area of one’s activities. Hard skills matter, but their effectiveness can be seriously undermined or diluted if people are not able to communicate effectively, empathize with colleagues, manage their emotions, or take the initiative when due.
Leadership skills are particularly important for women who need support to break the established gender stereotypes and norms limiting their participation and inclusion. They often prove more important than the learning skills because they empower women to take more initiative, become proactive, and seek new opportunities for development in their colleges.
It teaches students to plan, adapt to, and manage change
Strong leaders are often themselves change-makers. Leadership also means resilience to external changes, recurrent ebbs and flows, and the ability to adapt in accordance with one’s needs. Those who have ever written a leadership essay would know what I mean by this.
Leadership also means being skillful at adaptive management. Nothing is constant, and one needs to be ready to revisit initial assumptions, take note of contextual changes, and take corrective action.
It works the same way for college students too. They juggle various college responsibilities and assignments, and they sometimes need to shift their educational priorities and goals in light of the evolving context. Students need to be resilient and adaptive to such changes.
It contributes to the overall culture of teamwork and camaraderie
Student leadership contributes to creating and sustaining a culture of teamwork. It promotes the kind of camaraderie which is often key to achieving educational goals. Students are more likely to achieve their academic goals successfully if the learning environment is conducive to sharing responsibilities and supporting those who might be struggling with their studies.
Not only do strong leaders are capable of taking charge when necessary, but they are also adept at supporting others to develop and succeed. “Leading from behind” is a crucial concept in leadership and management theories, designed to unite people around shared values and goals while managing change, fostering continued learning, and bolstering collaboration.
It helps increase emotional intelligence
Notably, 71% of employers surveyed by TalentSmart noted that they value emotional intelligence over IQ. Why is that? Emotional intelligence is a key attribute of a strong leader. Those who are self-aware, knowledgeable of other people’s emotions, and capable of relationship management are always more likely to succeed in their studies, jobs, or projects.
Students have individual learning objectives, but they are still part of a broader student and teacher community. In this space, one cannot turn a blind eye to how emotions affect relationships in a positive or negative manner. Overall, emotional intelligence helps build the kind of social capital that will benefit students throughout their college years and professional careers.
It equips students with conflict-management skills
Leadership assumes one’s ability to either prevent or manage conflict. Strong leaders are usually adept at avoiding or mitigating conflict. They do so without compromising the core principles of fairness and equity. They are able to confront wrongdoers when applicable, but they are also able to forgive when due.
Strong leaders can spot and prevent potential conflicts early on. This skill is perhaps more important because it saves everyone the trouble of managing the actual conflict if it has to come to that. It also helps protect everyone from getting involved in non-related issues, which may further exacerbate tensions.
Student leadership plays an essential role in advancing students’ academic performance, social interactions, and emotional state. If nothing else, this should be your main takeaway from this article.
Research has found that when students are given opportunities to develop and practice their leadership skills, they tend to excel in other areas too. This positive correlation must serve as a significant incentive for both students and colleges to come up with creative ways of helping students grow as future leaders.
The depth and breadth of students’ knowledge will vary in accordance with changing circumstances and professional needs. Leadership skills will sustain academic achievements while making it easier for students to adapt to the ever-changing context and demands.
Authors Bio'-Joanne Elliot
Joanne Elliot is an experienced student mentor, researcher, and professional writer. As a social scientist, she has numerous studies on the role of leadership and teamwork skills in secondary and tertiary education under her belt. As a professional writer, Joanne has been a regular contributor to popular educational platforms with lots of valuable tips and information for students.