Leadership: What is it? How can I show it?

Leadership is one of the most challenging concepts in the world of work.  Countless books have been written and countless workshops held to help professionals of all kinds get a better sense of it.  Many job postings ask candidates to demonstrate leadership experience, but it can be difficult to define leadership and even harder to know how to show evidence of it.  In this article, our career coaches share their perspectives on what leadership means, and how you can show an employer your leadership skills.

What does leadership mean to you?

Adrienne Howell, Career Coach:

Leadership doesn’t just mean being the head of an organization or a group of people; it means being an example and doing what is right and ethical.  Leadership means caring about a group of people or organization, not just directing them.  Being able to dictate a situation just because one is “in charge” is much easier than taking the time to make a choice based on of the needs of the team. Students can exemplify leadership by listening to the needs of others, ahead of their own needs.

Giovanna Percontino, Career Coach:

It may not seem like it, but leadership can also look like support. How do I support my classmates? Do I allow for a space of sharing? Am I willing to be an active listener in a possibly uncomfortable conversation? Sometime difficulties leading a group boils down to lack of being open and vulnerable to just observing and understanding those that you are leading. Leadership does not always work “top down”.  In our leadership tool-kit, support looks more like a shared conversation and a supportive environment. Less “top down” and more “meet me in the middle.”

Suzie Pilkington, Recruiting Coordinator:

A leader is invested in the people they are leading. They help to develop and support those they lead. A good leader works with their team as opposed to working above their team. Taking accountability is an important trait of a leader.  A leader is a role model who leads by example.

Dominic Militello, Career Coach & Relationship Manager:

In my opinion, the great leaders have four things in common: 1) they know without ANY doubt Who they are as a personal brand; 2) they know with extreme confidence and commitment Where they are going; 3) they have an incredible, innate ability to Influence others by creating loyalty to them, their vision, and their objectives, and; 4) they get Results. Before a leader can lead anyone else, they must first learn how to lead themselves!  To sum up:

  1. Knowing who I am as a personal brand
  2. Knowing where I am going
  3. Knowing how to influence others to “buy into” my vision, strategy, ideas and objectives
  4. Getting Results

How can students show evidence of leadership?

Dominic Militello:

Two things that I think students can do immediately and I would strongly suggest they do are:

1) Sit down and carefully consider writing a personal branding statement. This statement should include their soft and hard skills, unique traits, their beliefs, and behaviors including communication, integrity, and a demonstration that they are trustworthy, likeable and can be depended on.

2) Most great leaders have been through tough times, challenges, or obstacles. I would suggest students think back to some of their greatest accomplishments because whenever there is a great accomplishment, it is usually accompanied by a great struggle or challenge. Write down those stories and share them often. Use the Problem Action Result format as your writing guide!