Building bridges and creating connections

In an attempt to provide student leaders and leaders of the future with the skills they need, Glendon political science Professor James Sewell initiated and organized the Glendon Leadership Workshop (GLW) on March 20. The workshop addressed how society can prepare, legitimize, choose and hold accountable those who lead it.   

Right: Participants at the Glendon Leadership Workshop

The primary goal of the GLW was to relocate from the traditional classroom setting to a venue without desks, for a more practical and hands-on approach to discussing the fundamental elements of leadership.

Various exercises, brainstorming sessions and discussions were designed to enhance participants’ self-confidence, leadership attitudes and communication proficiencies.

Speakers at the workshop included Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts; Louise Lewin, associate principal (student services); Sewell; and Beth Gibney Boulden, associate director of student programs at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts. The speakers were invited to define leadership from their differing perspectives in a panel discussion on “How Leadership Looks from Where I Stand”.

Left: Professor James Sewell (left) with Beth Gibney Boulden of Mt. Holyoke College

The ensuing discussion included views on how leaders share their visions and the need for leadership skills, both for working independently and as team members. Some participants argued that leadership presents different situational requirements and that delegating responsibility serves as a vital means of matching human resources to tasks, but also poses certain dilemmas. “How do you show trust in a team member’s responsibility, and his capacity to function autonomously, while at the same time ensuring that the job gets done properly and on time?,” asked Lewin. All of the speakers affirmed that leadership is hard work. Confronted with the situation of leading groups whose cohesion is complicated by gender or other distinctions, Lewin offered the notion of humour as a helpful leadership tool.

In her official capacity at Mt. Holyoke College, Gibney Boulden has been instrumental in fostering campus leadership, counselling student governance and advising students clubs. Recently, she coordinated a Leadership Training Conference at a US-based women’s college and led a delegation from Mt. Holyoke College in a four-day cross-cultural training session in Dubai, UAE. At the Glendon workshop, her hands-on leadership style was clearly demonstrated and her enthusiasm was contagious. She had many innovative ideas for promoting discussion and encouraging new ideas to emerge.

Right: One of the student groups participating in the second part of the workshop

In the second part of the workshop, participants formed small groups reflecting common interests about specific topical issues. It was in these groups that they shared perceptions of problems or opportunities and strategies for promoting them, before presenting their ideas to the entire group for further analysis.

The workshop’s main topic of discussion focused on finding ways to build a community on a campus divided between residents and commuter students. Encouraged by Boulden’s practical, down-to-earth style, participants left the workshop eager to make changes happen. They expressed their dedication to using their enhanced skills as leaders, and to take a more active approach by engaging in campus life. Since student groups in local university communities are often the training grounds for future leaders at the domestic and international levels, the workshop offered many benefits for participants. 

This article was submitted to YFile by Glendon students Audrey Alix, Monserrat Glasman and Safia Dakri.