Choosing student leaders

The organizations you’ve devoted yourself to can continue to grow and thrive if you and your team choose great successors. Read on for some tips on how to find folks who will not only continue the great work you’ve started, but help the group grow and evolve even more.

1. Consider diversity: a former teacher is going to bring different skills and opinions than a former banker; an Indian national will provide a different perspective from a native of Atlanta. Putting together a diverse leadership team will both ensure your constituents are well-represented, and provide a great variety of experiences and viewpoints.

2. Play devil’s advocate and look for someone else who does as well. If you have potential leaders who don’t fit with what your organization has typically sought out, don’t dismiss those people out of hand. Try to consider what this different perspective might bring to the group – and why you initially might not have imagined this person as a leader.

3. Look for team dynamics: while you want to have opposing viewpoints, make sure those opposite sides are capable of getting along. Keep an eye on potential leaders as they start running smaller committees and events: how do they address conflict, or solicit feedback? Seek out people who work well together and respect their fellow group members.

4. Consider working styles: while similar to diversity and team dynamics, getting a group with complementary work styles will definitely help the organization. If an organization has co-chairs who are all big picture/strategy people, none of them will want to step up to attend to the details of event planning; similarly, if you’ve got all “numbers people” in leadership roles, there will be no one to dream big and come up with the next great thing for the organization.

5. Seek someone who can give of their time: while many people have great intentions of giving their time to a leadership position, if they are participating in full-time recruiting, even the best of intentions may well go by the wayside. If you can find a student leader who is not job-searching (employer-sponsored, or returning to a family business), you can count on that person to put in the time necessary when, perhaps, other leaders cannot commit quite as much – especially during the fall when the group will be trying to engage those incoming first-years!