10 Ways You May Be Leading Without Realizing It


by Alyssa Orrantia Bieneme, Associate Director of Admissions, Southwest Region

I am a native Californian, first-generation college graduate, and former college counselor. I’ve visited many cities and college campuses, and I believe that Cornell (and its home- Ithaca, New York) have so much to LOVE! There are many amazing colleges and universities, but finding schools that are a great fit is key. It is my passion and a privilege to advise students throughout the process from college seeker to college grad, and beyond!

Leadership is a multi-faceted concept that can take on many forms. At Cornell, we recognize that not all students feel called to or comfortable in conventional leadership roles like class president or team captain. Cornell’s student community is comprised of excellent students from an incredible array of backgrounds, interests, and extra-curricular involvements. All types of leadership are considered valuable. Our graduates go on to lead and make amazing impacts across the professional spectrum in a great variety of roles, whether out in front, from the middle, or behind the scenes. In crafting our incoming freshman class each year, we are not merely focused on what our applicants do, but how they lead and impact their realms of influence. Each student’s values, motivations, engagement with others, empathy, and commitment are also very important and may not be accurately reflected in a resume of extra-curricular accomplishments. Here are some ways that you may be influencing others in your classes and community without knowing it.

  1. You respectfully speak up and take action when you know something is unjust, even if you are standing alone.
  2. During community service projects or other activities, you identify needs and take the initiative to fill them regardless of your title and available resources.
  3. At your job or internship, your behind-the-scenes work, research, and other contributions have made a difference in operational and decisions that impact your company.
  4. You are the go-to person in your household for sibling care, translation services, financial help, or other important family needs.
  5. When you share your perspective during class discussions or projects, you elevate the conversation and suggest thoughtful and creative solutions to problems.
  6. Acquaintances and friends often ask for your guidance regarding challenges in their academic, social, and personal lives.
  7. You are a voice of reason and truth bringing peace and creating common ground when there are different opinions and conflicts at school, online, and in your community.
  8. Whether or not you are in a formal mentoring program, you tend to take younger students, family friends, and others under your wing to ensure their success at school and in life.
  9. In class, on project teams, and in your extra-curricular activities, you often prompt others to share their ideas. You enjoy helping others connect, grow, and take the lead.
  10. You follow through on your word and do the right thing whether or not anyone is watching. When you are a person of integrity, others will eventually take notice (and hopefully follow suit).