“Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.”
This classic idiom comes from Hindu texts written somewhere between 800 and 200 B.C.
Although ancient, we follow this concept to this day. Nobody wants inexperienced and unintelligent people taking the lead. It’s inefficient and dangerous.
College admissions realize this, too. They’ve resolved to keep the blind from leading the blind by making leadership an essential quality for applicants.
To stand out in the sea of applications, you have to show how you can make a positive impact in the world.
In this article, we’ll discuss how you can make a difference through high school leadership.
Why Is Leadership Important?
In a previous article, we discussed the importance of leadership.
The key takeaways are that leaders inspire and empower others. They lead change with a shared vision.
Leaders are activators. They see the potential in others and motivate them to take action. They coordinate people to achieve the best outcomes.
College admissions realize this. That’s why they reward the change-makers with an opportunity to grow through education. They know that leaders will use their education to do big, new things in the world.
Colleges (and everyone, we hope) believe that initiative shows determination and motivation. Rather than waiting for someone else to tell them to do something, a leader thinks and works proactively.
Perhaps this relatively new emphasis on leadership comes from the fact that 63% of Millennials feel a lack of leadership development. And Millennials now make up 50% of the workforce.
Colleges may be realizing the importance of highlighting leadership as a key trait to equip the next few generations.
So it should be obvious why colleges and employers look at leadership. But how do you show them your leadership skills and experience?
You show the impact of your leadership through measurable success. This means qualitative and quantitative results.
In every leadership role you take, think about what your big goals are for that position. Be specific enough that you can measure your success.
This will help you figure out what steps to take to get there. Plus, having a way to measure your success makes it easier to share that success with others.
Rather than simply saying the event you put on went well, you can show that it was a hit through attendance and profits.
Another key aspect of leadership is that you lead someone or something. Aim for increased participation from your peers in whatever you decide to lead.
This will show that your leadership not only made a change but was effective enough to influence others.
You may be thinking, “how do I decide what to lead?” First, you’ll want to look at your interests and passions.
Depth Is Better than Breadth
Many students think that joining every club or extracurricular possible is the way to get noticed by colleges.
The truth is, colleges would much rather see leadership in a specialized area.
Don’t pack your time in high school with many clubs and experiences to stuff your resume. Think about what you’re actually interested in. This will keep you from spreading yourself thin and not contributing value to organizations.
Participation in extracurriculars should be mutually beneficial. You’re contributing to the success the extracurricular’s mission, and in turn, it’s bringing you joy and experience.
To figure out what you’d like to specialize in, think about your deepest interests and passions. Once you’ve narrowed your scope you can look for or create many leadership opportunities within that niche.
If you have trouble thinking of what your deepest interests and passions are, explore multiple avenues. The more experience you have, the more opportunities you have to learn what you like and don’t like.
How Do I Become a Leader?
Before you begin working with others, you should do a good amount of introspection.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. This allows for proper delegation of tasks in a leadership role. Plus, your strengths give you in a direction to look in for opportunities.
For instance, imagine that one of your strengths is facilitating communication. Knowing this about yourself, you can look for leadership roles that allow you to mediate.
Other parts of becoming a leader are practicing forward thinking and acting. Think outside of the box. Knowing your skills, how can you make your community a better place? What old procedures and standards can you improve?
Practice makes perfect in leadership, just like everything else. Although “perfect” may never be an end goal, as people are dynamic and ever-changing. Nonetheless, practicing leadership is essential.
Your goal should be to continue growing and positively influencing others. First, you’ll want to educate yourself. Then, you’ll be able to find and excel in leadership opportunities using that information.
To do this, you can visit the page regarding education to grow your knowledge base.
Finally, to be a strong leader, you need to be convincing enough to have followers. This requires strong communications skills. Practice active listening and clear speaking to communicate with others efficiently.
Some leaders ignore the active listening part of communication. This leads to dissatisfied followers who feel like they aren’t heard. Leaders like this end up being dictators or rulers rather than facilitators and organizers.
You need strong communication skills to inspire and empower others. And remember, leadership isn’t limited to leadership positions. You can be a leader to your peers and family.
Now that you’re thinking about what goes into being a leader, you can start thinking about what area you’d like to lead in.
What Opportunities Fall Under “Leadership”?
You can be a leader in almost any area of your life, so long as you’re working with others or initiating something on your own.
Areas of leadership include:
- Entrepreneurial activities
Traditional leadership opportunities include becoming a person of power such as a board member, president, or team captain.
While these are great things to participate in, don’t limit yourself there. Remember that a big part of leadership is innovation and impact.
Perhaps you could start a new club if there’s not one for what you’re passionate about. Or you can create an event, fundraiser, or project.
Outside of school, you can show leadership at work or through community service. If you really want to show initiative (and grow your entrepreneurial skills) you can start a small business.
Think about transforming everything you do into a leadership opportunity. In other words, use every opportunity to make an impact on others and the world.
When it comes time for college applications, you’ll have more to say than you can even write.
How to Articulate Your High School Leadership Experiences
This information applies to both applications and interviews.
Be concise about your role and impact with extracurriculars. Use measurable impact to make that experience stand out.
What sounds better to you: “treasurer of Mu Alpha Theta who coordinated fundraisers,” or, “treasurer of Mu Alpha Theta who coordinated fundraisers exceeding $5,000”?
Even though life isn’t all about the numbers and statistics, they’re important on college applications. Numbers are a universal language and a straight-forward way to show successes.
Remember that whatever you write should be selling yourself. College admissions read tons of applications and won’t be able to tell who you are just from a few pieces of paper.
That’s why you have to rely on experiences that have quantitative results.
In addition to the numbers, use words that are key components of strong leadership (as applicable) such as:
- Creative thinking
- Managing or directing others
- Relationship building
This list isn’t extensive or necessarily relevant to your individual skills. It just shows an example of types of qualities you’d want to highlight.
Because there’s a word count on applications, every word you write matters. Think about what language would best describe your experience without lying or manipulating the truth.
Make a Difference
If you have the skills to make good things happen, use them. Big change starts with small actions — such as high school leadership.
If you don’t utilize your leadership skills, you could be subjecting yourself and the world to “the blind leading the blind”. Use your vision and unique perspective to empower others and create new things.
Read more about leadership qualities that are sought after beyond college education.