In today’s tech-savvy world, it may seem as if people are more interested in their smartphones and laptops than the people sitting right in front of them. The LeaderShape Institute, a national organization beginning its third year of programming at Boston College, is dedicated to developing future leaders’ interpersonal skills in an effort to combat dependence on technology.
LeaderShape’s goal is to create an environment where students can “explore what makes [them] a leader, equip [them] with the tools to achieve [their] leadership potential, and aid [them] in sustaining [their] leadership goals for the future,” according to its website.
The program is open to anyone who wishes to participate. The ideal participant, according to the program website, is someone who “is passionate about local and global issues, enjoys engaging in constructive dialogue, is ready to turn planning into action, is comfortable collaborating in groups, and is open-minded about the potential of their LeaderShape experience.”
It features a six-day retreat at the Wonderland Retreat Center in Sharon, Mass., during winter break wherein a group of about 50 students, accompanied by visionary faculty and administrators, develop leadership skills based on a daily theme.
There, each participant gets the opportunity to look inward and ask himself or herself, “What is it that I want from life? What am I passionate about? And, how can I put this passion to good use?” Just by asking these questions, the strong barriers hindering self-discovery and progress established by society begin to break down, according to Marwa Eltahir, student coordinator and A&S ’17.
Some of the topics discussed during the retreat are titled, Building Community, The Value of One, The Power of All, Challenging What Is, Looking to What Could Be, Bringing Vision to Reality, Living and Leading with Integrity, and Staying in Action. These topics are essential to what Eltahir called “a formative experience,” where she, like many other LeaderShape graduates, found “a sense of direction,” and “what makes them get up in the morning.”
This experience allows many to find a vocation, or his or her calling and place within the world, and a path through which to pursue it, whatever it might be, according to Courtney Cameron, a student program coordinator and A&S ’16.
The retreat challenges the students intellectually, creatively, and mentally in order to develop the skills necessary to become effective leaders. The program seeks “long term vision for positive change” through “becom[ing] more self aware of … leadership potential,” according to the website.
“LeaderShape at Boston College inspired a confidence in me that empowers me to make change on campus,” said Joseph Maimone, a 2013 LeaderShape graduate and A&S ’16. “The skills I took from it enabled me to start an organization on campus that I developed out of the vision I created at LeaderShape.”
Other graduates have also cited the program as being extremely influential in their personal development and on shaping their definition of leadership. “Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react,” Cameron said. “If you’re in control, they’re in control.”
The club prides itself on its “Personal Action Plan,” which is developed during the retreat when each participant engages in deep reflection, collaboration, and mentorship within the newly formed community. “It really does play into the ideal of men and women for others … you will collaborate a lot with your peers … I could not have reached the level of discernment that I have without all of the discussions that we had and everything we did to get there,” Eltahir said.
“It’s just something you have to experience, because describing it to someone who has not taken part in it is very difficult, but it is definitely worth it, and it is extremely rewarding,” Cameron said. “We would not be here if we did not feel so strongly about this.”
LeaderShape is hoping to increase its presence on campus, as it believes that the skills students learn during their six days in the program will prove essential to their development both as professionals but also as people. As such, it highly encourages those interested in the program to register, especially since it is offered free of charge.
Featured Image by LeaderShape