Building Career Competencies: Leadership

If you’re currently working in a leadership role, chances are you possess qualities that are highly desirable to employers.  Studies show that competency in leadership is linked to emotional and social intelligence, and can lead to increased employee engagement, job performance and opportunities for advancement. 

For the month of May, we’re breaking down eight career readiness competencies that workplaces are looking for when vetting candidates, according to research by the National Association of College Employers.  Today’s topic is leadership.

According to its website, NACE defines leadership as the ability to “recognize and capitalize on personal and team strengths to achieve organizational goals.”

To possess leadership skills, students must be able to:

  •  Inspire, persuade and motivate self and others under a shared vision.
  •  Seek out and leverage diverse resources and feedback from others to inform direction.
  •  Use innovative thinking to go beyond traditional methods.
  •  Serve as a role model to others by approaching tasks with confidence and a positive attitude.
  •  Motivate and inspire others by encouraging them and by building mutual trust.
  •  Plan, initiate, manage, complete and evaluate projects.

There are many ways to get involved and build leadership skills at MU. 

For students looking to join clubs, Involvement Ambassadors can help connect you with campus resources and opportunities. For more employment-based leadership options, HireMizzouTigers is a comprehensive and MU-specific resource for finding jobs on campus and beyond.  Additionally, the Novak Leadership Institute has a series of leadership courses which range in target audience from freshmen to graduate students.

When writing about past leadership experiences in a resume or cover letter, be specific.  Include details about how many people were in your team, projects you worked on, types of problems you addressed and numerical results.


The Maneater | Assistant News Editor                              Columbia, Missouri | Dec. 2022-Present

  • Co-led a team of 33 students by directing pitch meetings, assisting with onboarding and maintaining a beat system to ensure equitable coverage of all areas of campus.
    • Conducted over 20 first reads — worked with reporters to address story structure, grammar/syntax, AP style and potential bias, and ensured accuracy by checking CQs and audio recordings of interviews.
    • Participated in editorial board meetings and decision-making.
    • Coordinated weekly meetings and summary emails with a Public Information Officer to ensure a smooth professional relationship.

In interviews, have anecdotes ready for describing how you dealt with tough situations in a leadership position.  Highlight how your experience demonstrates your unique approach to solving problems and your ability to motivate and inspire others. 


“As the Editor-in-Chief of my high school yearbook, I often dealt with staff who wouldn’t show up to meetings or complete necessary tasks.  At one point in the year, most of our photography team stopped being involved, and I couldn’t get the photos I needed.

In response, I talked to individuals in the team privately to get a sense of their concerns and how I could better support them.  I clearly communicated my expectations, and as a result, several were more receptive and began to come to meetings more often.  Additionally, I began to work on learning photography skills myself so I could ensure we had the content we needed. 

As a result, we finished the yearbook in time for the deadline, and I feel confident that the printed edition was full of quality photos.”

To evaluate your own career competencies and discover ways to boost your leadership skills, take the Focus2 quiz available at Mizzou Career Tools.  Or drop into the Career Center from 9-4 on weekdays for feedback on your resume or to prepare for an upcoming interview.