What’s required to be a leader of the future?

Suggestions of how to improve leadership and management skills whilst studying at university.

Leadership: a great power as well as a great responsibility. And in 2019, leadership is what many students aspire to. Following intense workloads as university undergraduates – with many juggling internships, jobs and relationships – students achieve bachelors or foundation degrees and embark into the world of work. The goal? To find a career that is fulfilling obviously. But hopefully, to make steps up the ladder to management and leadership.climb-the-career-ladder

Here are a few examples of attributes required to get to the top, and some tips of how to get there yourself. Remember – all of these elements are great to improve your skills but also you will need to write about them in your CV. See our upcoming article on how to improve your CV later this week.

Make and take opportunities

Students understand that often the market is flooded with qualified applicants for a role. How on earth can you stand out? Make opportunities.

Think Mark Zuckerberg. He wanted to capture his classmates’ attention with a networking site. He is now a billionaire entrepreneur and social media magnate. He’s famously said that

“When we are connected, we can do great things.”

…so get connected! Find student groups, organisations and unions that represent your interests and those of your future career. Want to become an artist? Join local gallery tours and volunteer groups such as this. Apply for specific opportunities offered by world class galleries – like this one at London’s Tate Museum. Want to work in charitable organisations? Find your local goodwill or charity shop and lend your time.

Whatever your goal, seek out and forge those opportunities to make yourself standout from the crowd. In itself, this is a skill of great leaders – innovation.


It may seem counterproductive – or require some creativity on a students’ budget – but travel can make you particularly interesting to hiring managers (not to mention helping you to make friends at the pub too). In order to develop your leadership skills, and demonstrate them to a future employer, make your travel purposeful. You could complete a ‘voluntour’ in which you work with vulnerable people in earthquake ravaged Nepal. You could support animal conservation on the beaches of Guatemala. Whatever you choose to do, you will gain inevitable skills that allow you to work with others in a more constructive way. A journal, in which you note key experiences, may be useful to allow you to embellish your CV with the finer details later to demonstrate your independence.


Becoming involved in sport is a given for many people attending universities. But had you ever thought of how this could improve your employability in the boardroom? On the pitch (court or field) you will undoubtedly be required to show great discipline – a key attribute of great leaders. Harness that, and apply it in your academic studies and employment too. Additionally, it’s a great way to network and find like-minded people who may one day prove useful in a potential working environment.


Decision making – to be or not to be… a leader?

Some universities now explicitly teach decision making. Most have a student body, run by a union that makes decisions for the majority by an elected few. In order to nurture your ability to make decisions, you could consider becoming involved in such an elective course or by seeking an elected position. If that’s not possible, there are plenty of other ways to identify yourself as a good decision maker. In interviews ensure to exude confidence in your dress, manner and approach.

How can you do this? Mimic those who exude these characteristics. The likelihood is that your academic studies are conducted by experts. Listen to them. Ask questions. Demand the highest achievable results from yourself and utilize the expertise that you are privileged to be exposed to in order to do so. University is a unique opportunity to share airtime with such thinkers – learn their ways and make the most of it.

Shoot for the stars

There are probably a million ways to become a great leader, and yet they are few and far between. Rather than asking why, look around. The answer is fairly straightforward. To become a leader requires more than just a desire for success. It requires hard work. Dedication. Sacrifice. And a little innovation, independence, discipline, confidence – paired with good luck.