Each year, my team selects over 150 student leaders to support our residential community across our two main campuses. It’s an intense process – generally involving over 250 applicants, and one in which advertisement and recruitment starts as early as August the year prior to the commencement of their roles.*
Whilst the process in selecting such a large cohort is undoubtedly complex and time consuming, (and involves everything from formal applications to large-scale group activities, workshops and interviews), there are four qualities or attributes that I personally look for when it comes down to the final stages of choosing between two or more equally good candidates.
1. Community Contributors
These students are the easiest to recognize – they’re frequently known by name or by face because they’ve gone out and about and involved themselves in their communities – in sports, academic, community outreach, social and extra-curricular activities. They may not just be the ‘star of the show,’ (sometimes they’re not the best choice anyway!) but they’re frequently the ones helping out behind the scenes and showing a genuine commitment to their community at almost every level.
How you can spot these future leaders: In many cases, those in current leadership roles will be the ones mentioning their name because they attend all the events, they may have taken on a starring role at the Open Mic Night or charity function, or they were the last ones to leave, helping out with clean-up and pack-up after an event.
2. A ‘Can Do’ Attitude
As with every situation in life, it doesn’t take long to pick the people who, as the saying goes, view the glass half-full rather than half-empty. They’re the ones who acknowledge the problem or issue, but in doing so are already looking for an alternative or the solution. In general they’ve got an open mind, they’re eager to learn and develop their skill set, and willing to accept feedback. Importantly, they’re assertive and sufficiently confident in having their say, but not aggressive in the way they present their argument.
How you can spot these future leaders: In group activities they’ll be the one’s supporting others with positive reinforcement, whilst providing genuinely helpful, and constructive, suggestions or alternative ways of undertaking a task when required.
3. Hunger for More
These students stand out for their enthusiasm, passion and desire – not only do they WANT to make a difference, but they truly believe that they CAN make a difference. These individuals are frequently on the lookout for any opportunity to get involved – however minor – and are always keen to try or learn new things. They’re passionate about their community and the role they can play.
How you can spot these future leaders: Best of all, these students come to you! They’re the ones knocking at your door, sending you emails or asking for ways to get involved and to help out.
4. Star Potential
Not something so easy to quantify, but more something you can sense, these individuals are the ones who you just ‘know’ have something special to offer. They might be quiet achievers or the ones who surprise you with a well thought-out answer to a tricky question, but these students can make a world of difference to a team. In the majority of cases, their potential is also untapped, so you can be the first to provide that opportunity for growth and development and to see your community flourish frequently as a result!
How to spot these future leaders: simple, or perhaps not so simple! Gut instinct, ‘that’ feeling, and some years of experience in picking some good, and not so good, student leaders.
What do you look for when selecting students to undertake key leadership roles?
* The Australian academic term runs from February – November with student leaders undertaking roles for the calendar year.
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Podcast With Dean Kenneth Elmore on Student Engagement Efforts