Purdue Student Leadership Initiative

Student Leadership Competencies adapted from Dr. Corey Seemiller, The Student Leadership Competencies Guidebook, Jossey-Bass, 2014.


Click on Chart to enlarge. Scroll down for definitions of each competency.

Learning and Reasoning


Leaders can produce and distinguish useful, legitimate information applicable to each leadership situation.

Idea Generation

Leaders are able to generate new ideas that effectively address issues in an ever-changing landscape.

Other Perspectives

Leaders can consider other perspectives and relate to and appreciate others through a better understanding of their view points.

Reflection and Application

Looking at the past, being able to better understand a situation, the strategies used, and the impact decisions can have. Learning from failures and success of past leaders in order to better address future leadership situations.

Systems Thinking

Leaders are able to understand how networks work and to be able to navigate through both the ripple effect of others’ decisions as well as engage in their own decision-making that considers the impact on a larger network or system.


Leaders need to understand a situation in its entirety, all the individual pieces as well as the whole, to be able to make meaning of the situation and make the best decision possible.


Leaders must be able to look at a variety of information, some seemingly unrelated, and connect that information to make sense of the bigger picture so that effective and sustainable decisions can be made.


Leaders must be able to look at all of the information and determine which information is most impactful to their situation and which information is just interesting.

Problem Solving

The ability to effectively solve problems

Decision Making

Leaders need to understand the context of each decision – people involved or affected, time, and resources.


Group Dynamics

Group Development

Leaders need to understand how groups form and develop, in order to foster group development and enhance the group’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Organizational Behavior

Leaders need to understand the organization and be able to anticipate, navigate, mitigate, and respond effectively to the behaviors of the organization and the people in it.

Power Dynamics

Leaders need to understand the types of power dynamics that exist in their groups so they can better respond to the group’s needs.

Creating Change

Leaders need to understand how to enact change in a way that is sensitive to the context and people involved.


Self-Awareness and Development


Leader understands his or her feelings, beliefs, actions, and personality, he or she can emphasize strengths and mitigate weaknesses in his or her leadership style and lead with more authenticity and in a more productive manner.

Personal Values

Leader understands their own values, makes decisions aligned with their values, and demonstrates their values through leadership that inspires others to work with them.

Personal Contributions

Leaders need to understand those aspects of themselves that are

Scope of Competence

Just as important as it is to know your strengths and talents that a leader brings to a situation, it is just as vital for the leader to know what he or she does not bring.

Receiving Feedback

Being able to consider feedback from others is critical for a leader to best develop their competencies and increase their effectiveness with others.


Leaders are always learning.


Personal Behavior


Leaders need to be aware that they have been entrusted to make decisions with far-reaching effects and have a responsibility and obligation to hold oneself to a higher standard.


A leader is willing to take charge in a situation either individually to fill a need or to help motivate the group to get moving on an idea or task.

Responding to Change

Leaders must be flexible and positive but must also be able to adapt quickly to needed change while ensuring that processes and procedures have a quick and smooth transition and other can move forward and adjust to a new way of being.

Responding to Ambiguity

Leaders must be able to respond to uncertainty and the unknown.

Follow Through

Leaders can be relied upon and trusted to carry out commitments.

Responsibility for Personal Behavior

Accepting responsibility for mistakes and bad choices. Taking corrective action and learning from the experience.

Functioning Independently

Completing tasks without having to be followed up with or reminded.

Positive Attitude

Help the moral and spirits of others, being able to find the good in any situation in order to motivate and empower others.


Demonstrating confidence in order to help others in their comfort with the situation.


Putting forth the best effort possible striving for the greatest outcome.


Ability to face challenges and adversity that cannot be overcome, as well as major setbacks and disappointments – learning from the experience and rising again to the next challenge.


Interpersonal Interaction

Productive Relationships

Having meaningful connections with others. Cultivating productive, mutually beneficial relationships.

Appropriate Interactions

Understanding that everyone is different due to a situation, a personality, or a set of circumstances. Gauging interactions to respect the boundaries, needs, and styles of others.

Helping Others

Understanding how valuable it is to help others and foster an environment in which people help each other.

Others’ Contributions

Understanding and integrating other people’s ideas, strengths, and abilities to better address an issue, strengthen a relationship, solve a problem, or engage in innovation.


The ability to understand another point of view or set of circumstances to effectively inform decisions and actions.


The ability to effectively provide direction to those who are supervised (formally or informally) being clear about what needs to be done, the process for doing it, and the expectations of the leader.

Providing Feedback

The ability to provide critiques, confirmations, and/or advice that can help another person improve their decisions, effectiveness, productivity, or interactions with others.


The ability to share ones’ knowledge, ability, and / or advice with less experienced individuals to help them develop their capacities.


Ability and willingness to share power, information, and resources allowing others to have an investment in a task or process so as to nurture a sense of ownership, accountability, and commitment.


Understanding the unique ways in which people are motivated and engaging in specific strategies that motivate each person in the most effective way for him or her.


The ability and willingness to foster a culture of collaboration, in which individuals or groups work together in intentional ways for mutual benefit.


Civic Responsibility


Understanding the diverse perspectives, backgrounds, beliefs, and / or experiences can enhance a group’s effectiveness.

Others’ Circumstances

Seeking to understand the situations and / or conditions of other people in order to make informed decisions – understanding what others have experienced or are experiencing so as to engage in inclusive behaviors and connect with them with a sense of care.

Social Justice

Understanding social power and the inequities that exist in the distribution of power. Motivation to lessen or eliminate those inequities.


Fostering and inclusive environment in which people feel free to share their viewpoints, contribute to a cause or task, or simply feel and sense of belonging.

Social Responsibility

Engaging in responsible decision making and ethical actins so that the impact they leave benefits and does not detract from the welfare of society and its members.


Modeling a commitment to and engagement with their communities by finding meaningful ways, personally and / or professionally, to participate in service that positively contributes to their communities.


Strategic Planning


The ability to create and manage systems and structures to most effectively manage, monitor, and utilize information, resources, and materials.


The ability to help articulate an organization’s mission statement summarizing the values that guide decision making.


The ability to articulate an inspiring vision (a picture of what one wants to future to look like) so as to align goals, plans and strategies and to stay on track, keep motivated, and monitor one’s progress.


Ability to break the vision down into smaller, measurable, and more readily achievable goals.


Ability to identify tasks and set deadlines for achieving goals and accomplishing day-to-day organizational operations.



Verbal Communication

Ability to effectively communicate with others through spoken word (public speaking, delivering presentations, running an meeting, or conversing one-on-one, etc.).

Nonverbal Communication

Ability to communicate nonverbally through body language, gestures, and other cues.


Ability to listen effectively so as to prevent miscommunication, promote better understanding, gather ideas and feedback, and demonstrate a sense of caring about what others want to communicate.


Ability to effectively communicate through writing.


Ability to effectively lead discussions, ask the right questions, and synthesize information.

Conflict Negotiations

Ability to use negotiation skills to create a safe, respectful, and trusting environment for addressing conflict.

Advocating for a Point of View

The ability to articulate what one believes. Clearly and understandably conveying the intended meaning in an influential and respectful manner.