What is leadership?

Leadership is a complex set of behaviours and attributes that involves more than simply directing others and thinking strategically. It is shown in your ability to

  • manage others
  • develop strategy
  • negotiate with others
  • set goals and enable others to achieve them
  • provide positive supervision
  • give and receive feedback
  • motivate others
  • act as coach or mentor

Leadership skills are among the main competencies that graduate recruiters look for evidence of and assess through recruitment and selection processes. However, a recent survey, Skills for graduates in the 21st century (Association of Graduate Recruiters, 2011), highlighted that leadership was the third most listed skills shortage, with 33% of respondents saying that they could not recruit graduates with the leadership skills their businesses needed.

Leadership 'behaviours'

  • Being able to direct and supervise others
  • Organising and motivating others
  • Setting objectives
  • Taking the initiative
  • Giving constructive feedback
  • Demonstrating confidence and assertiveness
  • Taking responsibility for the directions and actions of a team
  • Showing maturity and acting on feedback you have received
  • Demonstrating resilience and persevering when things are not working out
  • Accepting responsibility for when things haven't gone to plan
  • Being flexible and prepared to adapt goals and strategy if circumstances change
  • Taking a positive attitude to frustration/failure

Leadership skills development: examples and evidence

Leadership examples and evidence
Academic related  

Acting as chair/spokesperson of your project team

Involvement in LSE life (eg volunteering to sit on your department's SSLC)

Representing your fellow students on the Undergraduate Students' Consultative Forum|

Becoming a student mentor for first year students in your department

Setting up a study group

Participating in peer mentoring and PASS (peer assisted study sessions)

Attending Teaching and Learning Centre events|, such as Communicating assertively|

Becoming a departmental Careers Representative

Participating in LSE Peer Support|


Taking on a position of responsibility (eg treasurer, president) for a student society or sports club

Captaining a sports team

Bringing together a team of people to take part in a short term project like a student competition/activity

Becoming a Student Volunteering Ambassador

Taking on a position of responsibility in your Hall of Residence

Joining the Sports Volunteers Scheme to undertake coaching in local schools

Work experience/volunteering

Training new members of staff at your place of work

Volunteering in an inner city school

Volunteering with Inter-University mentoring young people and running homework clubs

Joining the Widening Participation Student Ambassador scheme|

Applying for funding for volunteering/enterprise projects via LSE Careers|


Taking the initiative and leading on group based skills sessions (eg by volunteering to chair the discussion)

Taking a leadership style test