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How to Become a Great Student Leader in High School

Being a strong leader will help you throughout college and the rest of your life. High school is a great time to start honing your leadership skills. Here's how!

Your high school years will lay the foundation for your future success. The habits you establish now will carry forward and have an impact on where you go in college and beyond—so it’s important to cultivate a positive, can-do attitude. You can start this positive journey by becoming a great student leader in high school. But just how do you do so? It all starts with knowing yourself and your unique strengths.

1. Identify opportunities

Maybe you have a disability, so you understand accessibility challenges. Perhaps you plan on a career as a doctor and have concerns about processed meats in cafeteria lunches. Find your passion and let your values guide you. Think about how you can use them to make your school better. Take the reins and get creative. If you want to see more fresh vegetables in school lunches, talk to vendors at your local farmers’ market on the weekend. Ask if they’d like to partner with your cafeteria and present your findings at the next school board meeting.

2. Build on your strengths

Do you cheer—at least on the inside—when your English teacher assigns a creative writing project? Do you love nothing more than solving a scientific puzzle or coding an app? Build on those strengths because your interests and personality type will influence both how you lead now and where you go in the future. Imagine you’re on a school dance committee. If you’re a social butterfly, you might take charge of ticket sales. If you’re introverted and artistic, you might decorate the gym. Whether you’re a helper or a doer, your innate skills can help you identify a unique way to lead. Identify your interests and apply them to a need.

Related: Leadership in High School: What Does It Mean?

3. Plot a course to your goal

You don’t earn your driver’s license by sitting at the wheel and pressing the gas. You need to learn the rules of the road first. Likewise, you need to take a systematic approach to reach your leadership goals. Each morning, identify one thing you can do that day to make progress. If you want to start a female lacrosse league, you might reach out to 10 adults about raising donations. Be patient—you don’t win greatness overnight. It requires persistent effort until you obtain the desired result.

4. Listen actively to others

Even if you’re smart enough to get on the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, you can learn a lot from others. The most successful business people make relationship building and active listening the core of their strategy. Open communication fosters a creative and collaborative environment perfect for growth. When a friend or classmate speaks, put your phone away and listen, even if you don’t share the same point of view. Resist the urge to interrupt or mentally plan your response. Value their time and input.

5. Learn from your mistakes

As the great Thomas Edison once said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Put away your fear of failure. Instead, adopt a growth mindset and resolve to learn from your mistakes. It’s natural to feel let down and disappointed if your plan flops. That’s okay. Dust yourself off and try again. After all, you now know what not to do.

6. Have a little fun

People tend to follow individuals who make them smile and laugh. Organize a fun retreat or a bonding activity to bring your soccer teammates closer. See if you can find enough friends to take a field trip to a Renaissance fair or science center. Learning is only a chore if you make it one—why not do your part to keep it engaging instead?

Related: Can You Make Studying More Fun?

Lead the change you want to see

Becoming a leader in high school means taking affirmative action toward the changes you want to see. When you identify a need and work tirelessly alongside others, you can transform your school environment, optimize your high school career, and supercharge your future.

Did you know student leaders get scholarships? Find free money for your leadership skills with our Scholarship Search tool!

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About Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is an education writer who helps students and teachers pursue their passions. Read more of her work on Syllabusy


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