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Leadership myths #3: Leadership – only for some? February 16, 2012

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership.
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By Kamilah Apong

Leadership is often seen as a kind of idea that belongs with fancy lecture conferences, big podiums, and long speeches. This can seem pretty intimidating to anyone who is not a professor, president, CEO, or other fancy title. I know the idea of being a leader and having to accomplish all kinds of fancy things was intimidating to me. However, it doesn’t work that way.

Leadership is more accessible than we think! You don’t have to have fifteen degrees or a lot of money and job experience to lead. You simply need to have the courage to share your own stories. And you don’t need to have a million people there to hear it, or even one. You don’t need to have it written down and proofread, or said into a microphone. All you really need is yourself.

A great example of accessible leadership is the EMPOWER project. I worked with them this past year. This project was a group of youth who had a lot of stories to share about sexuality, being street involved, racial identities, and more tough stuff that they wanted to share. They shared their stories through home-made videos that they learned to create and edit themselves (with some friendly help from a few video experts!). These individuals didn’t use fancy conferences with podiums, but definitely got a STRONG message across about perseverance, courage, and resilience. These qualities are all part of leadership. Their messages can now be shared with people all over the web, in hopes to spark new stories of accessible leadership for all.

See for yourself!

Kamilah is a 3rd-and-a-half year student studying Equity, Women and Gender Studies, and Sexual Diversity Studies. She enjoys taking long walks on the beach while simultaneously handing out free condoms to people.

We’re talking ’bout extracurriculars! February 10, 2012

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Student Life.
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Some people see extracurricular activities as a waste of time and without benefits, much like the way  Allen Iverson considers practice. Little does he know, though, that practice makes perfect—just ask Kobe Bryant: he’s won five NBA Championships. Iverson? None.

In the past 185 years, U of T has unsurprisingly produced a long list of successful alumni in vastly diverse fields. A lot of that success has to do with the level of academic excellence that has been in practice here, the positively competitive environment created by a confluence of intelligent people which raises everyone’s efforts to a higher level. However, while learning academic and some life skills inside the classroom is important, most life skills are learned outside of it, either taking part in a students’ union, playing intramural sports, taking part in a student club, volunteering for an event, or mentoring.

There are lots of skills and capabilities sought by employers that can be learned and/or developed from participation in extracurriculars, such as teamwork, leadership, communication and creative thinking, to name just a few.

You may also find your true calling while participating outside the classroom. Renowned director Atom Egoyan graduated from U of T in International Relations, but discovered his love for film in the Hart House Film Board.

Yet another benefit successful alumni have gained from extracurriculars is networking and friendship, because a lot of the people they meet in their out-of-class activities learn those very same skills that employers value so much, yet they are from different background and interests. U of T alumnus Craig Kielburger, founder of the Free the Children Foundation, developed his key networks while studying on the St. George campus.

So when you’re talkin’ about practice, man -  or extracurriculars – you’re talkin’ about your career and what you do with your life.

- Redon Hoxhaj, Communications Assistant, Office of Student Life

Myths of Leadership #2: Think Leadership is Just about Titles? Think Again February 1, 2012

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership.
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Has it ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting or working with a group and you have an idea but think to yourself, “but I’m not the leader; I’m not the one who’s in charge here” so you keep quiet? So often we default to titles and roles to guide us in these situations, when really these could be opportunities to step up and show leadership without necessarily being the leader in a group.

Leadership as a practice is something that everyone can do, no matter what your position, title or rank within and organization or group is. It just takes a shift in mindset to see this. Personally, I like this think of these as “leadership moments” or “leadership with a lower-case L”; a time when you voice your opinion, make a suggestion for better group process, or put yourself out there to do something daring, even without a title beside your name.

Kamilah, a student at U of T had this to say, “true leadership is not based on position or rank. It is based on action, performance, ability, and effectiveness. People naturally gravitate to those they want to follow, respect, and work with. There are no limiting job descriptions, job titles, and few rules and regulations. If a person comes up with a new idea, he or she puts a team of people together who have the desire and knowledge to make it work.”

Still not convinced? Check out this video that highlights some great title-less leaders.

- Kate Bowers, Student Life Coordinator (Leadership Programs)