Shaping Stronger Leaders: Civic Engagement Student Conference Focuses on Intentionality and Self-Care
This October OSUN held its second annual Virtual Student Leadership Conference. Several leadership topics were discussed during the conference, but two sessions particularly stood out for all attendees.
The first of these two sessions, titled "Journey of a Leader," was led by keynote speaker Hephzibah Emereole (OSUN Global Commons Managing Editor, Ashesi University), who described her journey as she grew to be a student leader. Emereole's presentation effectively broke down the concept of leadership, reminding participants that leadership is not limited to roles where people are officially designated as leaders but extends to how emerging leaders relate to their friends and family.
Emereole explained to participants that a leader is a person who is committed to a purpose and influences others to achieve that exact purpose. This means that anyone can be a leader, regardless of their age, gender, race, or any other incidental factor. She explained that many people sometimes feel they cannot be leaders due to such factors, a sad reality that prevents them from unlocking their full potential. “So be sure to remind yourself and those around you that you can all be leaders,” said Emereole.
Drawing on her evolution from a shy student to an effective leader, Emereole referred to "the Three E's", or conscious steps one must take to become a better version of herself. The first “e”stands for expand, which means taking risks, going out of one's comfort zone, and taking proactive measures to overcome shyness. Granted, this may seem challenging, but it is only by going out of one's comfort zone that they can grow as a person and a leader. The second “e” represents explore, which means consciously looking out for opportunities for growth and trying out a range of new things to learn from. The third “e” stands for execute, which builds on the two other e's and requires proving your value by giving your best to every task and achieving superior results.
As indicated above, the recurring theme in Emereole’s presentation was the need for a tremendous amount of intentionality. Leadership involves being deliberate about accessing opportunities that facilitate personal growth, building and utilizing networks that shape and direct us, constantly seeking and valuing constructive feedback, and, finally, being intentional about identifying what we are genuinely passionate about –something that can only be discovered by exploring.
The keynote speaker for the conference's second day was Maria José Caicedo, an experienced clinical psychologist working at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. Her talk on self-care provided a much-needed call to attention that many leaders often fail to heed. Caicedo stressed how important it is for leaders to take care of themselves first, fighting any “superhero syndrome” so they can effectively take care of others. Admittedly, for someone hearing this for the first time, it may sound rather selfish and perhaps contradictory to the tenets of leadership. But it is essential to realize that leaders can only give their best to the people they serve when they are first in the right frame of mind and a strong physical state.
Caicedo outlined two critical steps for self-care: understanding burnout and recognizing that it can happen to anyone. She shared her experience with burnout and compassion fatigue, which she experienced in her line of work as she constantly prioritized others' well-being over her own. Although leaders may be resilient and strong, they are not immune to burnout, so they must learn to connect with their bodies and emotions --the second step to self-care.
Caicedo pointed out that emotions guard and guide us by giving us important information about how our bodies feel at each point in time. How can you tell if you are reaching your breaking point? You may feel highly irritable, sick, pessimistic, tired, and overwhelmed, or you may struggle to sleep, she said. Perhaps you have sensed your body telling you not to take on an extra task to help someone, and you are battling it out in your mind because you feel it is your duty to do so. But that feeling within your body may be its way of protecting you from breaking down; you simply cannot afford to have more work on your plate, so it is vital to pay attention to what your body communicates to you.
Overall, participants in the OSUN Virtual Student Leadership Conference felt it provided them with essential lessons they will hopefully carry with them for the rest of their lives. If you missed the conference, many opportunities to participate are still available, as OSUN Civic Engagement strives to impact students and help them reach their full potential. Find more leadership development and civic engagement opportunities here.
Post Date: 11-07-2022