Most people simply accept their lives- they don’t lead them. ~ John C. Maxwell
As an instructor, I have witnessed students who I can immediately identify as a leader and those who prefer to be led. I often ask myself if those who prefer to be led have that thought because they don’t feel they have the skills to be a leader. Maybe they feel as a student they are still learning and will lead “one day” on the job. The truth is leadership skills can be demonstrated at any level, from student to CEO.
Lora Spencer, an adjunct instructor at Scott Community College, discussed with me leadership in the classroom. In a classroom, it can be difficult to teach leadership skills, but there are ways, as a student, you can demonstrate leadership skills. “Leadership isn’t always about being the best student in the class, it’s about working as a whole towards a common goal and being a good colleague to your peers,” says Lora.
So how can you be a student leader? What can you demonstrate as a student that will ultimately help make you a better leader in the workplace?
- Ask questions. It sounds too simple, right? How do you develop leadership skills without asking those who can help provide you guidance? You will feel more comfortable about stepping up as a leader when you are armed with knowledge.
- When given the opportunity, volunteer to share your knowledge or research with your classmates or outside audience. Do you have an opportunity to present a poster at your school or state association? Go for it!
- Volunteer for your local, state or national professional organizations. This will give you an opportunity to not only learn leadership skills, but also see them demonstrated on a regular basis. It will build your confidence to continue to volunteer or take leadership roles within the organization. Employers like to see this on your resume!
- When you are given a group project, step up and lead the group! Don’t sit back and wait for others to figure it out, do your part. The skills developed in the classroom ultimately translate into the work environment.
- Seek a mentor. How can you get where you want to go? Look at the path someone has taken and emulate it. Lora (Spencer) knew that when she graduated from her community college she one day wanted to come back and mentor future HIM professionals. She made her goals clear to her instructors while she was in the program and kept in touch after graduation. When a position opened up, she applied, and was hired as an adjunct at the very school in which she graduated.
- Work on your soft skills. Think about how you communicate with your instructor and your classmates. Employers need, and want, those who can communicate effectively. Other soft skills you should demonstrate in the classroom include, time management, problem-solving, and the fine art of collaboration.
- If you are a strong leader in your classroom, use those to influence your classmates. Perhaps that means encouraging and supporting them to lead a group project.
Being a student does not mean you can wait to show your leadership skills later, show them now! Build the skills needed to get the job you desire. Leadership is demonstrated at all levels. You do not need to be a CEO, CFO, HIM Director or Manager to be a leader.
Be on the lookout for more leadership blogs in the coming months.
About the Author
Megan Patton, MEd, RHIA has over 16 years in the Health Information Management field. She has been in education for the last 7 years and is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati’s Online HIM program. Megan currently serves as a Executive Board Director on the OHIMA Board of Directors.