leadership skills

April 25, 2018, by Carla Froggatt

Why University Is the Time to Hone Your Leadership Skills

By Jo Darbyshire, Commercial Director at Avalon Funeral Plans, BSc Mathematics and Statistics

If I had to choose one key skill I gained at university that helped me forge my career as Commercial Director of Avalon Funeral Plans, it would be leadership.

After leaving the University of Nottingham and starting my career in the corporate world, I found that demonstrating my leadership skills gave me an edge over other graduates. And a big part of leadership is confidence, because if you know your stuff and appear confident, people will have confidence in you.

Leadership can take many forms and anyone can learn to lead. In fact it is a skill that you can practise. Without the leadership skills I perfected during my time at university I wouldn’t be where I am today.

University is full of opportunities

University is the ideal environment in which to refine your leadership skills and I urge everyone to seek out opportunities to develop theirs. Course assignments, societies, intramural sports leagues, the University’s Sport Leadership Academy, the Nottingham Advantage Award, and peer mentoring are some of the best ways to brush up your communication and interpersonal skills.

Remember, practice is everything, so you need to put yourself out there and volunteer to lead activities where you can. If the opportunity doesn’t come to you, go seek it. Your university library will have lots of books on leadership, both about practical skills and also the psychology behind it. Use the resources available to you at university to better understand the type of leader you wish to be.

These are some of my favourites:

  • Start With Why – Simon Sinek
  • Finding your Leadership Style – Keith Lamdin
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R Covey
  • Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg

What makes a good leader?

Everyone has their own unique leadership style, but there are a few personal attributes that help great leaders get the best results from the people and projects they lead. These include:

  • proactive
  • competent
  • humility
  • decisive
  • listener
  • motivational
  • positive attitude
  • organised
  • innovative
  • respectful

Arguably, the most important trait to have is a positive attitude towards learning and development. Welcoming feedback and constructive criticism, and being eager to learn and improve is the foundation to a successful career, no matter what industry you choose to work in. With that comes knowledge, confidence and a solid grounding from which to lead.

Find your leadership style

Leadership comes in many different forms. While you should want to hone your own personal style, you should also be aware that there is not one style to fit all situations. Read about Goleman’s six styles of leadership here. A leadership style that works at university where a collaborative approach is often required, may need to be adapted for your first job.

Build interpersonal and leadership skills alongside your studies to give you a competitive edge in the working world, and it could be your fast track to success.

Interested in learning more about leadership? Check out LeadNow, a free two-day leadership course taking place in June. 

Posted in AlumniLeadership and management skills