For veterans, becoming a leader on campus is the natural progression. Our abilities, and the traits we learned in the military, enable us to lead by example at colleges and universities.
The Student Veterans of America offer a training titled Veterans Integration To Academic Leadership. They say in this training, “Service members learn leadership skills from the onset, and lead by discharging responsibility for others and for their own behaviors. Leadership characteristics you will see among service members are: setting an example, carefully considered directions, and inspiring and influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation.”
Ask questions. Many traditional freshmen students find it intimidating to ask professors questions during class. Lead by example by asking any relevant questions that come to mind. More likely than not, if you have a question about a topic, someone else in the class has a similar question. Remember, it is absolutely appropriate to ask for clarification if you do not understand something. In many cases it is OK to offer your professor a counterexample. This way he or she can explain their point in another format. Colleges and universities are a place for learning, and while respect is always important in academic settings, your professors are there to help you learn and understand.
Arrive on time. It’s not that hard. I could not even count the number of students who habitually show up 2-3 minutes late to class habitually. Show up on time, ready to go, with your book and everything else you will need. Other students will notice this and may even try to emulate you.
Turn off your cell phone. Do not just put it on vibrate; that sound is even more annoying than a ringer. Turn it off and put it in your bag. Many of us have gone several months without a phone; we can survive 90 minutes without it. Your professor deserves your undivided attention. Again, this is another way to lead your classmates by example.
In Student Organizations
Try to join a student organization. Even if you are not particularly interested in one, it is a great way to meet people and give back to the community. From your student veterans organization to a fraternity/sorority, or even a sports club. Naturally over time you will find yourself guiding other members. After a few months, consider putting in for a leadership position. You can help new student members learn the ropes of the organization and contribute to event and meeting planning.
Another great way to lead by example is simply in walking across campus or down the halls. Hold the door for someone; don’t throw trash on the ground. Many of the younger students are living on their own for the first time and will be looking up to you as “a real adult.” Don’t miss an opportunity to teach them how to act in society through your own actions.
In Study Groups
Whether you are in a study group or working on a group project (which most likely will happen at some point during your academic career), take the chance to be a leader. Remember that a good leader does not dictate, but ensures that all members are understanding each other and allows them to find answers on their own. Try not to take over, but help with scheduling meetings and ask leading questions to help students to discover answers by themselves.
Leading on campus is a natural occurrence with many veterans. Not only will you help traditional students, but it will help you to assimilate as a veteran by using your military skills in the civilian world.