Tips for Grads: Cultivating leadership skills in graduate school

By Foram Gathia, PhD student

Building leadership skills in graduate school is an essential endeavor that not only enhances personal development but also prepares individuals for success in their future careers. Graduate school provides fertile ground for honing leadership abilities through various academic and extracurricular activities.

  • Start with a self-assessment: Begin by identifying your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and values. Understand what kind of leader you aspire to be and what skills you need to develop to achieve that goal.
  • Set clear goals: Define specific leadership goals you want to accomplish during your time in graduate school. These goals could include holding a leadership position in a student organization, leading a research project, or developing a workshop on leadership skills.
  • Seek mentorship: Identify mentors within your academic department, professional networks, or alumni community who can provide guidance and support in your leadership journey. Learn from their experiences and seek advice on how to develop your leadership skills effectively.
  • Take initiative: Look for opportunities to initiate new projects, propose innovative ideas, or lead discussions in your academic and professional circles. Demonstrating initiative and proactivity is key to building credibility and gaining recognition as a leader.
  • Lead by example: Finally, lead by demonstrating integrity, accountability, empathy, and resilience in your interactions and decisions. Your actions and behavior will inspire others and create a positive impact within your academic community and beyond.

Building leadership skills in graduate school is a multifaceted journey encompassing self-assessment, active involvement, mentorship, and continuous learning. By embracing opportunities and demonstrating initiative, you can develop the capabilities necessary to lead effectively in your academic pursuits and future professional endeavors.

These tips are based on the Beyond Graduate School webinar “Building Leadership Skills in Graduate School.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.