How students can develop leadership skills at school

How students can develop leadership skills at school

By Bridie McArthur

School captains are often viewed as the pinnacle of leadership within the student sphere. They’re the ones with the shiny badges, giving speeches that balance formality with humour, running from meeting to meeting without a hair blown astray. It might feel like without that badge, there’s no place to be a leader at school – but there are so many forms of leadership. Having a more informal leadership role outside of the established captains or leaders can actually give more freedom to take leadership in whatever direction preferred, offering more opportunity for creativity.

Here are some optionsfor leadership at school outside school captaincy for those who are younger or just prefer a more informal form of leadership.

Starting or joining a club

There is a club for pretty much anything at most schools, and if the club doesn’t exist, there is always the opportunity to start one – whether it’s for books, chess, science, crochet, bracelet-making, or for One Direction-enthusiasts. All it takes is approachinga teacher, gathering some like-minded friends, and meeting once or twice a week, and you’ve become president of a club! It looks great on a resume and it’s a great way to develop your organising skills. If your club of interest does already exist, join it! You can help lead discussions, propose event ideas, and connect with people who love the same thing you do.


Mentoring younger students is a great way to show leadership in your school community. Your school might have an established mentoring programme, or you might have to take initiative and approach younger students or teachers to set one up yourself – even more leadership! You can help out students who are struggling, and show that you care about your peers.

Joining the SRC or equivalent

If school captain is a bit far in the future for you but you are drawn to a titled leadership position, run for SRC (student representative council) or your school’s equivalent. Develop your campaigning and speech-writing and public speaking skillsonce you get the position you have the opportunity to make a difference in your school and give your peers a voice and a say.

Attending leadership events and workshops

There’s nothing like walking into a room filled with people who share your passion for inciting change. I’ve attended this many times and I’ve loved every single session. You can find them either through your school, through social media, or through established organisations like the Girls Leadership Network.

Leadership isn’t about having a shiny badge or a title; it’s about empathy, having the ability to articulate your ideas, listen to those around you, being able to guide people in a shared direction, and be passionate and creative. There are so many opportunities to embody that at school, way beyond the three listed above. You could write for your school magazine, speak to your peers about topics/issues you feel strongly about, anything that involves you using your voice and taking action.

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