Developing student leadership qualities

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic spreading over the globe within a matter of weeks, the value and impact of leadership has put the world’s chiefs under the spotlight as they navigate their nations and organisations through these unparalleled times. Some have demonstrated empathy and strength, providing decisiveness and reassurance, while others have fallen disastrously short.

At the grass-roots level, schools have long recognised the importance of developing effective qualities in our global leaders of the future. But what does leadership mean, why is it important for students to learn the critical skills, and how can schools support students in developing these proficiencies in order to benefit our communities?

At CBC Fremantle our student leadership programme mirrors the journey from today’s boys to tomorrow’s gentlemen. Our graduates develop from thinking like a child (me, mine, centre of the universe and treating the feminine as a servant to their needs ) to an adult psychology ( caring, putting others first and respecting the feminine as an equal ). This healthy transition is crucial during the adolescent years for raising effective, compassionate and empathetic leaders and is at the centre of every student’s journey at the College.  

At its core, leadership is about guiding others to achieve shared goals. Effective leadership can look differently from the outside – some leaders may be extroverted and others are introverted. At CBC our student leadership programme mirrors the journey from today’s boys to tomorrow’s gentlemen; from boy to adult behaviours. Appropriate opportunities are provided for Year 7 boys right through to graduation to encourage the development of six essential skills that are known to foster compelling leadership qualities.


1. Integrity

Being truthful and aligning words with actions builds trust. Trust is essential for potent leadership and inspiring others.

2. Effective communication

Sharing a vision, soliciting ideas, clarifying confusion and explaining key learnings brings a team together. It is about motivating and inspiring, and importantly, requires active listening.

3. Empathy

The ability to see the perspectives of other people, recognise their emotions and understand their feelings is important for relationships and a harmonious society. There is also a correlation between empathy and academic success.

4. Organisation

A good leader is well prepared and informed, ensuring the appropriate tools for the job are available.

5. Responsible and accountable

An effective leader makes decisions and accepts the outcomes, whether positive or negative. They are accountable, acknowledge mistakes and embrace them in order to reflect, learn and improve.

6. Commitment and vision

With sincerity and a drive to serve, effective leaders share a vision and set clear goals that meet evolving needs and circumstances.

The importance of leadership skills for students

The necessity for freedom of expression for children is explicitly outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, “Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child.”

Student leadership practices emerge from this rights-based concept, encouraging young people to play an active role in making decisions that affect them, which has a bigger picture result for society.

As noted in Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth’s (ARACY) The Nest Agenda, “Evidence suggests young people’s participation may … have a range of important benefits for the individual, for organisations and for the broader community.” Within the educational context, it affords students the skills necessary for active participation as engaged citizens.

The report Student Leadership: A Review of Effective Practice reiterates these findings, and points out that developing leadership skills also impacts learning, as students take a greater ownership of their achievements.

Director of Student Leadership at CBC Fremantle, Mr Mike Pickford, says developing student leaders who are of service to others is critically important.

Their success and effectiveness is determined by the quality of their service to others in following the example of leadership modelled by Jesus: ‘If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest … For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; He came to serve and give His life’ (Mark 10: 43-45).

While service is considered the foundation of being a leader at CBC, awareness and improvement of the self is a natural part of the formation of cogent and compassionate leadership. Gregory SC Hine’s research Student leadership development: A functional framework found that: “Student leadership is of considerable value to students’ personal growth – and to the positive cultivation of school culture.”

Being an effective and compassionate leader requires thinking like an adult – applying commitment and discipline to oneself that is reflected in outside relationships. An example that CBC Principal Mr Domenic Burgio is fond of providing is the College haircut. Good grooming a nd a neat and tidy appearance are admirable traits, but it is the integrity in maintaining this small discipline that reflect s an adult way of thinking.  

The benefits of student leadership extend far beyond the classroom, preparing students for active participation in the wider community and graduating as young men who are agents of change for a better world.

How CBC supports students in developing leadership skills

In promoting effective leadership, College leaders and other staff play key roles. Under the direction of Mr Pickford, the student leadership programme is structured to provide opportunities for different types of leadership, whether formal or informal, and all boys are encouraged to foster their skills from day one of their CBC journey in Year 7.



Years 7 and 8 students learn about service and looking out for others, gaining confidence while building relationships and communication skills. Even the smallest actions can assist in the development of leaders, and it is essential that everyone they encounter at school recognises this potential.


Year 9 boys focus on positive masculinity in leadership, culminating in the Rite Journey where they are encouraged to leave their boy behaviours behind and adopt more adult practices. The year is pivotal in placing every young man in the best possible position coming into the next stage of their evolution towards becoming an effective leader.


Year 10 boys learn about the role of a Prefect, role modelling and expectations of a leader. They undertake a camp focussing on becoming a leader and engage in a Retreat where they learn the power of giving to our communities. They are encouraged to be selfless contributors to society by being men of action, empathy and respect.


Year 11 boys focus on self-examination and establishing goals, which fosters accountability and resilience as they move into their responsible senior years. Interested students attend trial Prefect seminars and a two-day leadership camp challenges the young men to put what they’ve learned into practise. They face challenges that require them to build community, trust others and communicate effectively.


Year 12 elected leaders (Portfolio and House Captains) attend a student leadership day talking about team standards, identifying the needs of the College, and creating a vision for the future. Using the six key leadership skills, they establish team norms that drive cultural development, and create strategies to role model learned leadership behaviours to Year 7, 8 and 9 students. Across the cohort, the graduands learn more about their own attributes and which areas they might need to focus on and they accept responsibility for their own development with appropriate guidance and increased autonomy.

“We believe every student has the potential to lead. When a student feels empowered and leads in an area they are passionate about, they will contribute significantly. All students however, need direction to build a skillset that will support their leadership journey,” said Mr Pickford.

Practical skills that reflect effective leadership at CBC include: communication, time management, prioritising, role modelling, running effective meetings, confidence, resilience, public speaking, educated risk-taking, teamwork, effective listening, delegation, goal-setting, balancing responsibilities, social etiquette and hosting events.

The leadership model at CBC is continually evolving to embrace current practises and affairs, and harness the strengths of the cohort. The College actively encourages boys to:

  • identify a passion or strength that will benefit the community,
  • work in a team to achieve a common goal,
  • create team standards, identify the needs of the community, and create a vision for the future,
  • understand, develop and continue the positive attitudes, behaviours and customs that influence College culture, and
  • be acknowledged for effort rather than achievement.

“Students gain a sense of ownership for their leadership journey. When students feel empowered they are more likely to contribute to the College in a positive way, and ideally leave a lasting legacy,” continued Mr Pickford.

Asked how leaders are supported to drive change at CBC, Mr Pickford elaborates:

We seek to empower students to make decisions, guiding them in the processes needed to effect change, through communication, planning and prioritising skills. They are encouraged to look at the bigger picture and how their voice can positively influence the community.

Managing mistakes when a leader falters provides learning opportunities and boys are encouraged to reflect and try again. “It is the conversation, not the consequence that we believe is most effective when dealing with failure. If a student fails to meet expectations, they are held accountable and we help them learn from the situation,” outlined Mr Pickford.

CBC’s student leadership team meets regularly to participate in fundraising and culture-building activities designed to engage students:

  • in governance and decision-making,
  • as school ambassadors beyond the school,
  • in peer support, buddying, mentoring or coaching,
  • as Prefects or other forms of traditional student leadership,
  • as members and participants in school processes such as staff or school leadership appointment panels,
  • in improving school operations, culture, climate or practices, and
  • in school change or reform processes.

At CBC Fremantle, the College supports students to become leaders and true gentlemen who, informed by Christian values with a strong sense of justice, are prepared to shape a better world.

To find out more, order our prospectus.

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