These days yes, it is a must. When I was speaking with a representative from Valero Oil, I was a sophomore, she told me that they prefer Junior interns but that I was on the right track since I already have research experience... Getting research experience is not difficult if you go to a big university. I suggest emailing random professors in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, or any department that interests you. Tell them you are willing to work in their research group as a volunteer, for credit, or for pay. You will be surprised how many of them need undergraduate help. This is how you get your foot in the door.
For a leadership position. Join a club that you like, it can be any club you enjoy, and then run for an officer position when they hold elections. Or if clubs are not your thing. Emphasize in your resume that you are a natural leader. For example, you might have a work or volunteer experience and you can say in one bullet something like, "Applied leadership skills to train two new employees on daily duties and safety protocols."
The main thing is to get involved now. You do not need to do all of this at once, you are a freshman so you have time until Junior year. Companies like EXXON are really into students who were involved. Also, make sure you keep your GPA as high as you can. A 3.5 and above GPA is great along with experiences I mentioned. If a 3.5 can't be kept then your limit is a 3.3 GPA. Good luck!
Also, try to have fun. Make sure you have a balance in your life.