Life @ U of T

Learning to be an authentic leader: Leading Together 2019

The 3rd annual Leading Together conference was hosted in Hart House on Saturday, January 12, 2019. This full day conference explored authentic leadership through a reflective keynote, a diverse array of student led sessions and lots of opportunity to network, listen and share.

Waking up before 10am can be quite the struggle, especially on the weekends. But for a laid back student leadership conference at Hart House, I’ll easily make an exception. Even on a chilly Saturday during winter. And although I didn’t catch some extra zzz’s, I did catch some new ideas and inspiration.

Here’s 5 things I learned about leadership on this chilly Saturday:

Lead the day with some good food and good company
Food has always had a comforting presence, especially in uncomfortable situations like networking events. However, on this early Saturday morning, what immediately made me feel at ease (and lasted into the day) was all the friendly company. The yummy bowl of granola just happened to be a bonus!

Hart House events are top-notch
This is my second time attending a conference in Hart House, and I’ve learned that HH is a great space to host events. They have great space and delicious food! As much as I love pizza as the next person, HH catering surpasses my pizza expectations. From the atmosphere to the food, an event at HH is the place to be!

No two leaders are the same
My shy and quiet persona was feeling a bit brave, so I signed myself up for sessions where I learned to make prolonged eye contact with strangers, the boots and cats of beatboxing, and that life is just one big improv skit. As different as every session I went to was, the one thing they all had in common was an authentic presenter. Just fellow students sharing their experiences and ideas, honestly and creatively. Each session taught me something new, and showed me that there is always more than one way to lead.

Get up and stretch
In between sessions, some lovely MoveU leaders guided the wellness break with various stretches and exercises that can be done in a square metre of space. Some jumping jacks, a touch of the toes, tree pose. I saw this as a great metaphor for not only stretching physically, but also emotionally or cognitively. To challenge myself a little more, and stretch out of my comfort zone.

It’s much harder to be authentic, when I’m not even looking with my own eyes
Nothing distracts me more from letting myself be seen, then when I compare myself others and shudder at the realization that I’m not like them, therefore, I can’t fit in. But keynote speaker, Ayana Webb, offered some great insight about being a more authentic leader. That to be honest with myself, then I have to look at myself with my own eyes and confront my own bias, my internalized notions of what I think others want me to be. And hopefully, through more awareness and practice, I can simply just be.

Photo by Adam Kuhn

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