Leader of the pack or following the crowd? 3 things about leadership that might surprise you

What does ‘leadership’ mean to you?

When you think of the word ‘leader’, who or what springs to mind? You might think of a politician, a celebrity, or an activist in the public eye. You might think of a teacher, or a sports coach that inspired you.

But what is that magic quality that makes a leader ‘good’? Is it charm? Charisma? A long list of qualifications? A certain set of characteristics? An ability to ‘get things done’? And why do so many people feel so strongly that leadership is or isn’t for them? 

The truth is that anyone can be a leader. That isn’t to say that everyone can be a good leader, can motivate others, harness potential and lead a collective to achieve a goal. But all of us have the potential to lead

Here’s three things that might surprise you about leadership, and one thing you can do to explore what being a leader means to you – apply for York Leaders

Leadership is a skill you can develop

We often talk about people being perceived as having a natural ability to lead as being ‘born leaders’, and many of us can identify what we DON’T like about the leaders we’ve encountered too – from teachers, bad bosses, to those in government. In reality, whilst some people may be naturally inclined to be well-matched for leadership roles based on their personal preferences, personality or skill set, leadership qualities can be learned and cultivated. There’s diversity in great leadership – and the world needs leaders who are capable of listening, not just talking, of responding rather than reacting, and who elevate marginalised voices as part of the conversation. Whilst your own set of values is something unique and personal to you, the skills and strategies of good leadership can be learnt and developed – something you can do as a York Leader

Leadership isn’t just about being ‘the boss’

The Social Change Model (Astin & Astin, 1996) tells us that leaders try to improve the groups or communities they are part of. As a values based model of leadership, the Social Change Model looks at leadership as a process rather than a position, and identifies community involvement and service as a powerful vehicle for student personal and professional development. 

What issues are you passionate about that affect you and the community you are a part of? From the environment crisis, conversations around mental health, to tackling food waste, past participants of York Leaders have explored topical issues facing students and the world around us, and some have gone on to turn their ideas into real-world solutions (such as All Should Eat!) Identifying your own values and collaborating with others is a great first step towards exploring your own leadership potential in our York Leaders programme.

You can be a leader

“But I don’t feel like a leader!” you might be thinking. I hear you, and I’d encourage you to add the word ‘yet’ to that statement. You don’t feel like a leader, yet. Having a growth mindset and an openness to learning and development is really helpful in cultivating resilience and building confidence. If you’ve not had the opportunity to practise being a leader or developing your leadership skills, how might you find opportunities to see if it’s something you enjoy? You don’t know until you try! 

If that’s not you and you already feel like leading others is something that’s a strength for you (that is, something that you enjoy and that energises you), brilliant! But whichever of these mindsets applies – York Leaders can help you explore this. 

York Leaders 2022

York Leaders is an exciting opportunity for second (or middle) year undergraduate students from all academic disciplines to gain exclusive access to an intensive training course. 

You don’t have to have experience in a leadership role already to apply – we’re looking for enthusiastic students who can show us their potential to take part. York Leaders is much more than simply learning about leadership – our unique programme offers the opportunity to put what you learn into practice through a group project, working with others on real-world issues to discover what leadership means to you.

York Leaders is a selective programme with only 90 places available, running weeks 8 and 9 of Spring term 2022. Applications are open now and close on Thursday 3rd February 2022. Apply online

Still not convinced? Read the experience of our current York Leaders below and how the programme impacted their confidence.

“The team that I worked with during York Leaders had a great sense of agency in working towards a goal that was larger than ourselves. We also just had great fun as a team, which made me have a great experience too. Because we were all from different backgrounds, everyone was able to contribute in their own unique way, even if they were not stereotypical ‘leaders’. I would definitely recommend that everyone with even a passing interest applies for York Leaders. No matter who you are, or your background, you might surprise yourself!”

Cath Brislane (Language and Linguistic Science) – York Leader 2021

If you’re ready to take the next step, apply to be a York Leader today

If you’re in another year of study, or a postgraduate student, we’d still encourage you to explore the Social Change Model and what this means to you. There’s lots of ways to develop your leadership potential and build experience – from volunteering, to internships, society committee membership, to student body representation via your department and more. Find out what motivates you and use that to guide your next steps. 

If you have any questions about York Leaders or the application process, visit the webpages or contact the team: award@york.ac.uk