top of page

How to Be a Leader in Any Situation

From group projects to brainstorming sessions, life is full of opportunities to be an effective leader. 💪

Imagine that you’re sitting in a circle with several people you barely know. Can you hear that? 👂

The silence…is deafening.

There are countless times in life where you will encounter these kinds of situations. Although it varies from group to group, most dynamics involve a leader who will take charge of the task at hand and/or facilitate discussion. The question ends up being: who will be the leader? 🤔

If your first instinct is to speak up, all the more power to you! However, many people often report feeling awkward or embarrassed to lead a group, especially around people they aren’t familiar with. These emotions are common in all walks of life: whether it’s classrooms or courtrooms, the kitchen table or meetings, we are naturally inclined with a tendency to fit in. To follow others, even if they don’t know what to do either.

That’s why it’s all the more important to be the leader that you want to follow. But what makes an effective leader, and how can you embody their traits? Your first assumption might be that a leader’s only responsibility is to order people around, but in reality, balancing assertiveness with a listening ear requires quite a bit of nuance and depth.

Believe in Your Ability to Lead

You may have heard that a natural leader lives and breathes confidence, inside and out. And this is true—to an extent. Nobody wants to work with someone who carries an ego or invests little in others’ opinions. However, confidence really means that you should exhibit strength in the face of obstacles, and truly believe in what you say with conviction. 💭

When you first meet a group of people, try introducing yourself and striking up a conversation. You may find that icebreakers are the thing that bring people together, and it never hurts to know interesting facts about others! If you sense that there are less talkative members, don’t single them out unless they’re comfortable with it. Be sure to give them a spotlight for their opinion whenever possible.

Understand How Others Feel

An effective leader also exudes empathy. 😊 Have you ever been frustrated with a group member, only to find out that they’re facing challenges that you didn’t know about? When you’re in a broader position on the team, it’s easy to lose sight of the reality that your peers are currently through. This is why it’s crucial to develop a listening ear, no matter what you might believe otherwise. If someone shares a concern or confides in you, thank them and take it as a learning opportunity!

Say a fellow classmate comes up to you one day and tells you that her grandfather has been sick. Because of this, she’s been having trouble completing her work on time. You know that other people in the same project have been complaining about how she hasn’t pulled her weight. As a leader, your responsibility is to resolve the conflict between your team members and make sure everyone’s needs are addressed. ✅ To this classmate, you might say:

“Hey, I completely understand your situation. I want you to know that we’re here for you. Let us know if you need extra time or help with your work, okay?”

Then, you may want to find a way to communicate this message to the rest of your team. Whether through a 1-on-1 or all together, be sure to respect your classmate’s privacy while letting everyone know the new expectations. When you are empathetic, others will follow your example.

A Stable Team is a Successful Team

So you’ve gotten into the groove of things as a leader, and everything seems to be going smoothly. Until…it doesn’t. ⚠️

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a group that doesn’t run into any conflicts or disagreements. In fact, that’s what makes teamwork a learning experience for all! If everyone thought the same way or had the same ideas, there wouldn’t be any room for innovation in the world. On the other hand, you need to make sure your discourse is productive in order to move forward—a team that always argues isn’t a happy one. You need to master conflict-resolution skills.

If two coworkers start to go back and forth at each other during a brainstorming session, what will you do? When emotions run high, it can be easy to side with one person and dismiss the other. What’s more, you may feel strongly about a decision yourself. But it’s up to you as the facilitator to mediate any tension and let everyone lay out their opinions. You might say:

“I understand where both of you are coming from. I don’t think that we have the resources or knowledge right now to make an informed decision as a team. Does anyone else have a solution, or should we list the pros and cons of both sides?”

See how you can address everyone’s needs with a little intervention? Obviously, these exact words won’t apply to every situation, but as you learn how to work with different kinds of people, it will get easier to smooth out disputes over time.

DIY = Delegate It Yourself

After learning about all of the above traits, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer responsibilities and expectations of a leader! 😧 It’s totally normal to shy away from this position because you’re afraid that you’ll have to “do everything alone.” Take a deep breath—you won’t have to. In fact, delegation is another key quality to being an effective leader. While it’s important to model accountability and finish your own tasks on time, you should know when to utilize the effort and strengths of your team members as well. As Eller College of Management puts it, “This quality requires the leader to trust the ability of their followers to work on their behalf and produce quality outcomes.” In other words, humility is the secret to successful teamwork.

There are many times where you may not be the most skilled person for a certain job, and that’s okay! Trust that your members may be able to perform a task better, and by doing so, you’ll be able to focus on other responsibilities. Your team as a whole will be able to reach your goals more efficiently. 💯

Imagine a scenario where your project requires backend development for a website. You have a little experience with coding, but you also have three other action items to manage at this time. You’ve just started working with a new developer, but you aren’t sure if they’ll be able to handle such a big responsibility. Should you delegate the task? Most of the time, yes! By taking a leap of faith with your peers, you might be surprised at how much they can prove themselves.


After learning about several key traits, you should have a pretty good idea of what it means to be a leader in any environment. So why not get started now? 👀 The next time you find yourself in a collaborative setting, like a group project or brainstorming session, try to recall these skills to take charge of the task at hand.

Lesson Summary

  1. In most situations, there will be a need for a leader to facilitate discussion and drive action.

  2. You need to believe in yourself and your ideas first in order for people to believe you.

  3. Being empathetic will help you understand your teammates on a deeper level and improve efficiency.

  4. Expect conflicts when working as a team, and learn how to resolve them by talking it out.

  5. Delegating tasks to your members and trusting their skills will help your team reach its goals faster.

Try It Yourself!

  1. Recall a time you stepped up to be a leader for a group. Reflect on the task at hand, the actions you and your members took, and any problems you encountered.

  2. Write a step-by-step plan detailing how you would solve these problems now. Refer to the traits listed above.


bottom of page