Book Excerpts

Student organization leadership can be defined as follows: the act of leading an organization of students that may be represented as an assembly, an association, a body, a class (e.g., sophomore, junior, or senior), a club, a committee, a council, a government, a group, or a society.
  Intended as a resource for leaders of student organizations, this book is the result of years of collaboration and writing from authors who have a number of years of experience successfully leading student organizations. Much of what we have proposed includes ideas and approaches that we have found to be successful in our own leadership experience and successful for other organizations we have advised. Our mission is to assist students in becoming better leaders and help maximize the effectiveness of student organizations.
  The heuristic challenge in writing a book on student organizations is that student leadership is more of an art than a science. Therefore, we have focused on ten areas of student organization leadership that form the chapters of this book. We address five major constraints of student organizations: limited advisement, budget, personnel, participation, and training. This book aims to help solve these problems faced by student leaders with their demanding academic workloads.
  Although the responsibilities of leading a committee may differ from those of leading a student government, many of the principles are the same. Thus, the privilege of leadership should be assumed with a commitment to acquiring the tools that enable the leader to be as effective as possible. This book is written for student leaders of all levels of responsibility and experience. Whether you are chair of a committee, an officer or board member of a student organization, or part of the student government leadership this book should help you become a more effective leader.
  This second edition has been revised and updated to include a new chapter on How to Improve or Turn Around a Student Organization, based on an improvement process and the steps to follow for solving organizational problems.
  Computer files associated with portions of the book are also available. These tools help users in recreating the relevant documents and tables from the text to apply to their own organizations. To find more information about these resources and student organization leadership, please visit our Web site at
  Student organizations play a critical role in the life of students and the caliber of the leadership can have dramatic effects on the success of the organization. Fundamentally, we hope that you gain insight by reading this book and that it helps you achieve success in your leadership role.

Motivation for Being a Student Leader

Being a leader of a student organization is the ideal setting for you to grow and gain experience in leadership. Academic institutions take their students very seriously and whenever a student organization is formed, the institutions embrace it and permit it to function as part of the family of student organizations, as long as the organization and its officers are in compliance with the policies of the institution. There are many opportunities for leadership at the student level, and the institution welcomes new leaders recognizing that there will be lessons learned in the crucible of student organizations that cannot be gathered from the formal classroom setting. The arena of student leadership is somewhat public, and the stakes are high enough to warrant careful attention to all aspects of leadership. While exemplary leaders are lauded, unethical conduct and egregious abuse of the leadership privilege can result in severe sanctions for violating the student conduct code. Few leaders are remembered beyond their term of leadership, but the benefits of an effective leader to the student body and even to an institution will remain for many years.
  You may be considering whether or not you could be a student leader. Indeed, there are several reasons for becoming a student leader, among them are the following:
  1. Leadership Training: You will have the opportunity to develop your leadership abilities in a setting where you can learn without risking your job and income. While the stakes are not as high as they would be in a job, you are nevertheless developing your leadership skills in a public setting.
  2. Improving Knowledge: Student organizations are a great way for you to learn more and broaden your awareness of other aspects of your field and interests. You will learn things that are not traditionally taught in academic courses and possibly gain insight into the way academic institutions function.
  3. Improving Communication Skills: You will enhance your communication skills by making many different types of presentations and by public speaking in both prepared and extemporaneous styles. Written communication skills will be developed through writing the many e-mails and documents that are the responsibility of a student leader. Strong written and oral communication skills are the most commonly mentioned requirements in job descriptions, and you will have an advantage over your peers in the job application process as a result of your student leadership experience.
  4. Networking: You will have the opportunity to build relationships with other students and with school administrators which could result in valuable leads or referrals for employment. At the same time, you will develop your social skills and character in building lasting friendships and relationships with others.
  5. Resume Building: Being a student leader will impress potential employers and set you apart from those who have not held leadership positions. However, the experience gained is really only valuable if your student organization is active and making a difference to your fellow students. In the public setting of student leadership, the difference between being a leader and merely holding a leadership position will determine the experience you accumulate and the respect you earn from your peers and those administrators, from whom you may be seeking a letter of recommendation for a job in the future.
  The skills you will gain from starting a student organization or from being a student leader will make you a more marketable candidate for future jobs you may seek. You will develop your character in the process and become more well-rounded as a student and as an individual.​