danielscareers-leadershipWhile in school you hear words like “leadership,” and you do case studies about leaders of different companies and the decisions they made to steer their organization in a strategic direction. It is easy to think about your own leadership as something to develop in the future, after you graduate and have worked in industry for a while. But the truth is you are a leader right now. So whether you are just about to finish your first year or about to graduate, it is important to look at how you lead and how that will impact others.

In looking at your leadership development, it is important to determine what type of leader you want to be. This can be determined through self reflection and looking at current leaders you have such as professors, team captains and your fellow classmates. In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner outline five characteristics of an exemplary leader:

  • Model the Way: Your actions should set an example for others to follow. In other words, look at how you treat other people.
  • Inspire a Shared Vision: Can you inspire people with an idea you have? Excellent leaders will be able to inspire the people they work with towards a new strategic goal.
  • Challenge the Process: Challenging the process and finding innovative ways to solve problems is essential. This also involves taking risks and continuous learning.
  • Enable Others to Act: Do your actions facilitate collaboration and increase team morale? Strong leaders foster team building by empowering their teams.
  • Encourage the Heart: This involves celebrating team successes and respecting the different ways to honor and acknowledge people.

Even if you are still in school, your actions are currently shaping your future leadership style, so use this as an opportunity to grow and develop into the great leader you want to be! Look at leaders you really admire and emulate traits they have. To really focus on this, you can build a leadership development plan. This process can be done at any age or at any level within an organization.

Try the following:

  • Make a list of a few goals you have.
  • What activities will help you accomplish these goals?
  • Who will hold you accountable to achieving them?
  • Develop a timeline of activities and check-in points.
  • Remember to have fun!

Our actions and leadership are impactful at any age and any level. You stopping to pick up a piece of trash on the sidewalk is exemplary leadership and can inspire others to do the same. Do not underestimate the power of your actions!