Student leaders get involved in a variety of leadership roles. Some are active in student government. Others take on officer roles in student clubs. Still others lead a fraternity or sorority or serve as captain of a sports team. Regardless of the particular role, good student leaders share some common characteristics.


Integrity is the foundation of leadership in any capacity, and it is especially important for students trying to establish themselves as lifetime leaders. Trustworthiness, honesty and the ability to consistently follow-through on promises are all core elements of integrity. If a student leader is not honest in the way that he leads it becomes very difficult for him to get other students to buy in and follow his lead.

Human Relations

In his 2003 New Horizons For Learning article, "Student Leadership Today," Grant Nelson, a school and state association leader while in high school, notes that compassion for others is perhaps the most important trait of a good student leader. A desire to help others succeed and a simple willingness to extend a hand or offer a "hello" to a new student or someone having a hard time is the most genuine trait of a student leader. Showing you care motivates other students to follow your example.


Troy University's Eight Qualities That Can Make A Student Leader Great discusses "task effectiveness" and Nelson discusses the importance of leaders "taking action." Both of these relate to a broader leadership trait of initiative. Whereas many students notice opportunities to help others, to make decisions and to lead, student leaders take action and get the job done. They step in when help is needed, they offer support to fellow students and they overcome peer pressure to do what is right. Student leaders are also typically self-starters who push themselves to success.

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Student leaders need to have vision and a sense of purpose to accomplish big things in their roles. Students often take on established leadership positions in a school or organization and simply follow in line with the same activities and behaviors of previous students holding those position. However, effective student leaders develop a plan and have the vision to seize new opportunities and to communication their vision to other student leaders.