The Role of Leadership Skills for Business Students (and How to Develop Them)

The Role of Leadership Skills for Business Students

Hey everyone! It’s Ibrahim again. Today, I want to talk about leadership skills and why it matters for all business students. I used to think that it would be necessary for only a small number of the “chosen” people who plan to start a business, but I know that everyone needs such abilities. They make your outlook in life better and help you see yourself differently. Let’s begin! 

My Personal Journey: Leadership Wasn’t for Me

I’m not one of those people who have natural leadership capabilities. Actually, the idea of some “leadership skill” was so strange to me that I viewed myself as unsuitable for leading even a group of ants, not speaking about people. As a kid, I used to avoid most types of leading and public speaking activities. At school, I hated leadership tasks because it seemed to me that I was inherently wrong at them. Surprisingly enough, when I decided to start my own small charity activity during my last year of high school, it was great. It appeared that I did have the skills leaders need; I just wasn’t aware of it. I was an anxious person, which made it difficult for me to imagine that other people would see my best features without focusing on my weaknesses. 

Slowly, I started to try myself as a leader in small projects; it was important for me not to overdo it as I was only trying it, like a new coat you’re unsure about. Well, after some time, I realized that I was interested in guiding people, which motivated me to examine the most common skills for leaders. Fascinatingly, I don’t recognize myself today as the person I was before. Of course, I managed to improve many features, not just seeing myself as a business leader but as a better person in general. And I’ve learned that it is very important for someone who considers working in the business field to improve their capabilities. And I’ll soon explain why! 

What Is Leadership? Let’s Discuss It!

Before moving to the concept of leadership skills, let’s first define leadership. It is a state and process of supporting, guiding, and inspiring others to achieve a particular common goal. As you might see, it’s more than simple management. People often confuse one with the other, but management is more technical, while leadership is a feature of personality that you can develop in yourself. Let’s move to leadership skills; they are the abilities a leader possesses after growth and training that help them to make intelligent decisions and support their teams. 

Lastly, business leadership is the ability to make judgments and decide for the team on business-related questions that will benefit all of the stakeholders and produce profit. 

As you see, these definitions matter because although business and leadership often go together, they don’t necessarily mean one thing or even have one goal in mind. When I started to work at my Big Four company, I realized that some people have to work a lot to achieve the same leadership results. In other cases, the goals of a great leader may contradict the needs of a corporation. 

Why Leadership Skills Matter for Business Students

Do you think that business leadership skills are not vital for you because you don’t plan to lead a company? Interestingly, developing leadership skills is not for top managers only. Here’s why they are essential.

  • They help you become a better learner. You don’t just use leadership skills in business. They will be applicable everywhere. For example, when I graduated from high school, I continuously asked myself, “What are leadership skills, and do I need them to succeed?” It appeared that when I demonstrated my leadership ability to my classmates and professors in college, I suddenly received more attention and better grades. When we had marketing or business studies classes, I was able to see whether the leader’s choices were successful or not. It helped me solve a lot of assignments. 
  • They make you fit. In fact, core leadership skills don’t just teach you to be a good leader. Many people don’t ever guide anyone and still benefit from such capabilities. Why? Because you understand how to work with all types of people. For instance, when I was in college, I had lots of group projects. 

Even though I was not always assigned as the responsible person, I always inspired others to do their best and be honest with me. 

  • You develop your network. As I started to realize my leadership abilities, I managed to put myself a lot out there, and it significantly affected my lifestyle. I received several suggestions regarding my internship because my friends told their employers I was a good manager and a great teammate. 
  • They allow you to grow as a person. Skills that make a good leader are actually pretty useful for all spheres of life. Did you want to start running? Do you struggle with accountability? When I took on some of the critical leadership skills, I joined the gym and developed a well-functioning learning structure that allowed me to cope with my problems faster. 

How to Develop Leadership Skills

You can find an almost endless list of remarkable abilities and leadership tips out there, but I’ll focus on 5 leadership skills that I have found most important for myself as a student and an aspiring professional.

leadership skills

  1. Communication. Maybe it’s an unpopular opinion, but I think that you don’t really need to spend a lot of time reading to master this skill. I’ve rarely studied how to talk to people because such skills are like sports: you have to master them in real life. Socialize. Join some groups that talk a lot. When I was a little awkward, I actually spent some time thinking about my ineffective interactions and thought about what could have gone better. I looked at actors, people, and characters whose behavior I wanted to copy, and it helped me appear less strange to them. 
  2. Emotional intelligence. It all starts with self-reflection. You won’t understand others unless you do enough self-analysis to be able to view others from a different perspective and with more acceptance. Participate in talking to others in a way that allows you to study their emotions and see them from a logical perspective. Emotional intelligence isn’t about feeling the same; it’s about understanding it. You don’t need to be in another person’s mind to develop leadership skills. 
  3. Confidence. Some people remain anxious about themselves for years, but I believe in the “fake it till you make it” concept. Most important leadership skills are practiced for years nonetheless, so if you start now, you’ll eventually become much more confident. I don’t view reading self-help books as helpful, either. I propose to you something different: be successful. For example, choose some things in which you can praise yourself for minor improvements. Learn to play the guitar and have a supportive teacher. Every learned song will add to your confidence. Try volunteering. See yourself doing something, and it will systematically improve your self-assurance. 
  4. Critical thinking. This skill is the one I feel deserves reading a lot, so all that time you’ve saved not reading useless books about confidence will be invested in critical thinking. Buy several books on improving your logic and read about the most common thinking fallacies. Join a debate club. I loved a debate club and philosophy elective in my college! 
  5. Vision. Reading case studies not just from business but all spheres of life really helped me with this one. Key leadership skills can be learned from real-life examples because they already happened, and you can observe what went wrong from the safety of your own home. Also, surround yourself with the right people. I was relatively unfamiliar with many important topics, such as sustainability, until I met my friend Jenna, who told me about today’s eco-friendly business decisions. 

Common Misconceptions About Leadership Skills 

  • You are born to be a leader

No one is born to lead others. Until you develop essential leadership skills, you’re just like all of us. Even then, leaders can lose some of their abilities or be unsuitable for some environments: the same person with a great animal rescue team won’t be a good fit for a military unit. 

  • Leaders are never wrong

Everyone is wrong. A leader who pretends they didn’t make a mistake is probably not very professional. Successful business leaders always make sure to work on their mistakes, and that’s important. 

  • It’s impossible to be liked; you have to be feared

That is one of the most harmful myths about leadership. People become so obsessed with false images of leaders that they can’t actually develop leadership skills. Fear is a terrible motivator, and it won’t last for long. 

  • Leadership is only about money

Many individuals you’ll find great leaders will never earn much money. For example, your local priest can be an outstanding leader. Or your mom. Or even your younger brother, who seems to be the glue for all his friends. 

Leadership Is a Flame!

Hopefully, you’ve learned about top leadership skills and how to improve them. Every path is unique, but you don’t need to fear helping and guiding others. It will come naturally to you; just give yourself some time.

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Ibrahim Hiary
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A proud native of Abu-Dhabi, Ibrahim is now a happy citizen of Washington D.C.. He takes active interest in the work on international NGOs and works his way to applying for a Master’s Degree in Business in the USA. Currently he is doing his internship at one of the Big Four companies.