Six Leadership Strategies for College Students

college students meeting in a coffee house in Dallas having a conversation with a book on the table

College is a beautiful time of learning, starting with students' classes. However, there are many more opportunities for personal and professional growth in college, especially in soft skills like leadership.

Strong leadership skills will serve you well regardless of what the Lord calls you to do.

At DBU, biblical servant leadership, as modeled by Christ, sets the standard for the style of leadership that we hope graduates emulate in their respective callings. From the example of professors and guest lecturers to the exemplary leaders and practical concepts discussed in class, students are encouraged to grow in servant leadership.

What is Effective Servant Leadership?

Think about an effective servant leader who has impacted your life. What qualities made their leadership style so successful and impactful?

According to Robert Greenleaf, founder of the modern servant leadership movement, the 10 characteristics of servant leadership include listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to people's growth, and building community.

These characteristics are so powerful because they are conducive to building communication, increasing motivation, and ensuring authentic, trusting relationships with team members. Great leaders ultimately support and embody a mission beyond themselves with no ego getting in the way.

How to Develop Your Servant Leadership Skills

College is an incredible place to develop and improve your servant leadership skills. Here are six strategies and leadership activities for college students that will help support the journey.

1. Start with Academics

While there are many ways to sharpen your leadership skills away from class, start inside the classroom. It's one of the most accessible ways to begin learning because many colleges and universities offer courses directly related to leadership, management, and communications.

For example, DBU has an entire School of Leadership that recognizes our world needs strong leaders who can address society's challenges. You can even minor in Leadership with courses like Discovering Your Leadership Calling, Vision-Casting and Leading Change, and Leadership Across Boundaries: Travel Study.

Our leadership curriculum strives to educate and equip our students to become the Christian servant leaders, scholars, and global thinkers God calls them to be.

2. Explore Student Organizations

Student organizations are an essential extension of the classroom experience. Joining a student organization helps you meet new people and opens pathways to cultivate your leadership skills and become servant leaders in the community.

You may even consider stepping beyond your member role and taking on more responsibility by becoming an officer of a club or organization, team captain, student ambassador, or event coordinator.

DBU has many active student organizations focused on academic, social, service, and spiritual emphasis. There's something for everyone.

If there isn't one, there is a chance that you can help to create one. After all, taking this kind of initiative is good leadership practice, too!

No matter your role, participation in organizations will ask you to lean into communication, cooperation, and teamwork while offering the chance to interact with other leaders and learn from them.

3. Consider a Leadership Program

In addition to student organizations, there are various focused leadership programs for college students. Many colleges and universities have their own, but other local organizations, regional chambers, entrepreneurial incubators, and more offer leadership development programs.

4. Become a Resident Assistant

Living on campus in residence halls is often a vibrant and integral part of a college student's experience — yet it can be an adjustment. That's why resident assistants (RAs) can be important to this transition.

RAs foster relationships with new and returning students and aid in their adjustment to university life. As such, they learn valuable interpersonal leadership skills, like effective communication, empathy, problem-solving, and more.

5. Learn from Established Leaders

Colleges and universities are full of qualified, experienced professors, staff, and mentors who exemplify leadership qualities. Make sure to take every advantage of learning from them! Attend workshops, work as a teaching assistant, sign up for on-campus talks from leading voices and speakers, and more, which is a great way to network and meet future mentors.

At DBU, we have many opportunities to glean wisdom from leaders. One of our core annual events is the Christian Leadership Summit, hosted by the Cook School of Leadership. The summit aims to equip, train, and develop leaders for their distinctive, God-given callings.

Since 2014, the Christian Leadership Summit has featured outstanding lecturers, panel discussions, paper presentations, and networking opportunities for leaders and aspiring leaders from various vocational backgrounds.

6. Volunteer

At the core of the DBU experience is servant leadership, and every incoming student is able to take part in community service by volunteering for a variety of community organizations. Volunteering is a powerful and transformative experience that not only provides support to the needs of communities but profoundly impacts the lives of college students.

Through service and volunteer opportunities, college students live out their faith and commitment to Christ by helping. By volunteering in the community, you will network and interact with people from diverse experiences and backgrounds, a skill that is necessary for any effective leader.

There are many volunteer opportunities in almost every community and across a range of need and impact categories. DBU also employs service-learning, a strategy combining academics with community service and Christ-centered reflection. Service-learning enhances students' classroom and real-world education to develop leaders who are committed servants of God who care for others.

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There is no time like your college years to begin growing in your leadership skills. Our mission at DBU is to provide Christ-centered quality higher education in the arts, sciences, and professional studies and produce servant leaders who can integrate faith and learning through their respective callings.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:9 NIV

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