An Unofficial Guide to Leadership and Personal Development

An Unofficial Guide to Leadership and Personal Development

Perhaps one of the most valued and an essential trait in our modern world is leadership. Employers respect it, and it’s a quintessential means to build a personal community and image.

I am only one person, and everyone’s experiences may differ, however, these are some tips that have worked for me. They have helped in my leadership development, and on a broader scale, as an overall person. Interestingly enough, I originally planned to write this piece for first year students, but the more I began to write, the more I realized that the advice I could give was something anyone could relate to. Development and leadership is always growing, changing and strengthening.

So may you always be inspired, and strive for more, for as John Quincy Adams once said, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”. Without further ado, let’s get started!

  1. Take Risks
    It’s really, really hard but it’s really, really important. You don’t need to go skydiving every day, but set the goal of doing one thing a day that scares you. When you challenge yourself, you’re expanding your horizons, and no matter the outcome, you will always learn more than you started off with.
  2. Obstacles Build You
    Building off Tip #1, it’s important that when you come across a hurdle you see the lesson it will teach you, as opposed to feeling discouraged. Bill Gates’ first business failed, Thomas Edison had 1000 failed light bulb attempts, Michael Jordan didn’t make this high school varsity basketball team – yet these obstacles only motivated them to succeed more.
  3. Join Something
    And if there’s nothing you like, create something! So many people have similar passions as you. It’s just a matter of finding each other. Be it a club, team or group; find something that fits you. You’ll have fun, learn a thing or two, and meet a bunch of great people.
    You can browse campus organizations and opportunities here: https://ulife.utoronto.ca/
  4. Networking
    It’s been called the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization. Networking is about connecting with people, sharing ideas, exchanging knowledge. From this, you may be referred to others, or have a partnership that will help you in your own life. Leadership entails you being able to reach out to others, to seek opportunities, and to develop resources. Networking is your catalyst in achieving those opportunities.
    In my job as a Leadership Development Facilitator, I have reached out to various campus groups to seek collaboration on events and promotion. For example, I networked with a film group who advertised and attended my documentary screenings. In turn, I sent attendees of my events to their workshops. This enhanced the experience of both of our programs. Networking created mutual beneficial partnerships that in turn help the broader campus community.
    Check out
    https://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/asc (UTSG), https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/careers/explore-careers-workshops-events (UTM), and http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/aacc/ (UTSC) for networking opportunities tri-campus wide!
  5. Find an Ally
    You need something that will support you, because everyone needs help from time to time. An ally can be anyone or anything, the key is that when you’re lost, hurt or just not feeling the best, an ally brings you back up.Examples can be a friend, a family member, or even a book: find what works for you. I remember a day where I was feeling extremely overwhelmed and stressed about my grades and workload. I went into work and my boss immediately noticed that something was off. She proceeded to share with me her own personal struggles when she was an undergrad, and how she overcame them. Speaking to her reassured me that I was not alone, and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to my boss, I had a completely changed mood and felt uplifted! The simplest of actions can have profound results.
    There are some amazing mentorship programs offered at the University of Toronto, find more details out at https://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/mpp (UTSG) and http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/studentlife/first-year-experience-program (UTSC).
  6. Sleep
    The most underrated power tool possibly ever. Connecting to the previous tip, sleep has got your back. Young people have some of the worst sleeping patterns, which is seriously detrimental when we’re constantly learning and being active. If you care about the marks you get then get a good night’s rest (average recommended amount is 8 hours for an adult), because sleep deprivation is linked to poor academic results, as it affects both concentration and memory. We’ve all been there after an all-nighter, and it sucks. Note: an XL cup of Timmies IS NOT a substitute for sleep.
  7. Take Time for Yourself
    The student life is one of reading, studying, working, and sheer exhaustion. Not only do you need to rest and relax, you deserve it. Find something that you enjoy and that’s not related to academics, be it running, baking or binge watching your favourite TV show. Some recuperation will keep you energized and most importantly, happy!Here is a great guide to a variety of quick relaxation strategies: http://greatist.com/happiness/40-ways-relax-5-minutes-or-less. Be sure to keep updated on your campus’ student life events for awesome, free, and entertaining activities.
  8. Give Back to Your Community
    As important as it is to be connected to academics, it is equally important to be involved outside of class. Get to know community organizations, groups, and people and find out how you can contribute to enhancing your local community.Grassroots action is often the most effective, and you’ll develop leadership skills by learning from community leaders, and organizing events, while bettering your neighbourhood.
    Check out http://life.utoronto.ca/get-involved/community-service/ (UTSG), https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/student-life/community-and-civic-engagement (UTSC) and http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/studentlife/volunteer-community (UTM) for ways to get started!
  9. Be Yourself and Love It!
    As one of my favourite poets Rumi said, “you are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in the drop.” Change is necessary and inevitable, but never compromise your well-being or character. You are powerful, and you are capable of making a difference. The strongest leaders I have known are the ones who are confident about who they are, and proud of it.
  10. ______________
    This one is blank, because I don’t have all the answers! There’s so much value in learning about yourself and this world as you experience and develop. Add to this list, remove from this list, ignore this list, love this list, take it as you will.
    The world is yours to discover!

Written By: Sana Najafi – Leadership Development Facilitator, UTSC

Sana is a first year student at UTSC in the International Development Studies Co-op stream. She’s passionate about human rights and justice, and currently works with many groups such as Free The Children, Amnesty, Frontier College and the International Development Conference, as well as coordinating the ‘Conscious Activism Documentary Series’ via UTSC Department of Student Life and Hart House. On her free time you can find her binge watching The Office or hanging out with her cats.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Well done Sana Najafi:D

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