Crafting Yourself as a Leader at Michigan

Male student tabling on Diag at Festifall.

The University of Michigan is a hotbed for personal growth. Marked by an emphasis on involvement, the university offers a range of extracurricular opportunities that are so far reaching, you wouldn’t even believe that some of them exist. During my time at Michigan, I’ve been fortunate to explore a number of these opportunities and develop myself as a leader - something that was of high value to me coming into the school my freshman year. However, I know how overwhelming things can get. The variety of opportunities and the blitz of information that’s thrown at you when you step on campus can be a lot, so I want to share my 5 best tips for people that are passionate about leading on campus!

1. Find Your Passion

The pinnacle of passionate leadership is passionate involvement. Finding something that you care to invest great amounts of time and energy into is an essential first step to becoming a great leader and helping to develop those around you. This can be a passion that you’ve held onto for a while, but it can also be something that you’ve never done before. Coming to campus with an open mind can propel you to fall in love with something you might have never expected - and in many ways, that’s what college is all about. If you want to learn more about the different extracurriculars on campus, check out MaizePages, and don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith to something that excites you.

2. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

While getting involved with new things is one of the most important parts of college, it comes with the caveat that one must mitigate their commitments carefully. When I came to campus, I was so excited by all of the different clubs that I ended up joining three. After doing this for a semester, I realized that I was spread too thin and decided to focus my attention on two main clubs. Becoming a leader requires a proper investment into both yourself and your commitment, and being spread too thin will ensure that you can’t apply yourself in the way you really want to. This will look different for a lot of people as everybody has a different tolerance for time allocation, but it’s essential that you take the time to consider your needs, routine, and where you want to invest your time when planning your schedule.

3. Learn About Your Strengths and Weaknesses

If you’re planning on becoming a leader, you will likely be put in a position where you have to give constructive feedback or guide people to a different outcome than the one they’re headed towards. In order to do this effectively, you will have had to build a strong sense of credibility. Think about this - how would you feel being criticized by somebody that isn’t open to criticism themselves? We all probably have a similar answer to this question, and that’s why it’s incredibly important that you spend time reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses. Thoughtful leaders know what they can and can’t do well, and when the people around them see this introspection, it helps build trust. You will have a lot of learning experiences throughout college. It is inevitable. Take the time to think back on them, be honest with yourself, and think about what you can take away.

4. Ask for Help

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last four years, it’s that leadership is really hard. In reality, leadership has two components: growth and mitigation. Growth suggests having a long-term vision to improve whatever you’re working on, whether that’s the structure of a club or the development of the people in it. Mitigation is really just about putting out fires along the way. Balancing personalities, keeping people on track, and selling people on change is a set of tasks that are easier said than done. For these reasons, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Michigan has an amazing network of people that are just as dedicated as you are, and the leaders that have come before you care just as much about your success as they did their own. Reach out and you will be surprised how much you learn!

5. Practice Empathy

Finally, the most important part of being a good leader is developing a strong sense of empathy. This understandably doesn’t come naturally to everybody, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that can’t be developed. People at this school come from all walks of life - and everybody is carrying their own bag of rocks. Work on getting past your biases, think about where people are coming from, and channel this empathy when making leadership decisions. I can’t emphasize this point enough, and I promise you that developing an empathetic mindset will help you in leadership and beyond.

Wrap-Up

Ultimately, you will be presented with chance after chance to become a leader on this campus. Whether you want to take advantage of that is up to you - but I can confidently say that I attribute so much of my personal growth to the opportunities I’ve had to lead at Michigan. Feel free to reach out to us and book an appointment here. As Resource Navigators, we’re here to put you in a position to succeed. Go Blue!

UMICH RESOURCE LINKS:

University Career Alumni Network (UCAN)

Maize Pages

Use School/Department Search for Office Hours of Professors/Instructors/Advisors

Content Expertise Contributor: 
Ben Taboga | Senior | Ross School of Business