What does it take to be a leader? From Jan. 2-7, 53 Michigan Tech students explored answers to this question at the 21st annual LeaderShape Institute held at Michigan Tech's Ford Center in Alberta. I was lucky enough to be one of the 53 chosen.
Perhaps the primary concept I learned at LeaderShape is leadership involves living in a state of possibility, making a commitment to a vision, developing relationships to move the vision into action and sustaining a high level of integrity. We were taught effective leadership takes place in the context of a community and results in positive change.
At LeaderShape, we were committed to acting consistently with core ethical values, personal values and convictions. We were shown leadership skills that would not only benefit us as individuals, but the communities and organizations of which we are a part. In essence, we were taught how to lead with integrity.
Some of the activities involved working in a group — trusting each other and overcoming obstacles and chaos with ease. These exercises aimed to improve our communication and problem-solving skills, develop and enrich relationships and strengthen our commitment to respecting the contributions of all people.
On Day Two, we took an assessment, the DiSC Classic, that allowed us to find out more about our unique behavior patterns. The goal of this assessment was to help create an environment that will ensure our success.
The DiSC assessment showed us what our most prominent behavioral pattern is — that pattern was either Dominance, Influence, Steadiness or Conscientiousness.
Once we discovered our pattern, DiSC showed us what our tendencies and desired environments are. It also told us what we need from others in our community and what we need to do in order to be more effective.
"Even if our futures seemed far-fetched or impossible, we were encouraged to view them as obtainable goals."
One of the most valuable outlooks adopted at LeaderShape was the belief in a healthy disregard for the impossible. We maintained this outlook by visualizing our goal future — what kind of world do we want to see and how can we make that world a reality?
Even if our futures seemed far-fetched or impossible, we were encouraged to view them as obtainable goals. In fact, we were often told to “think bigger!” This means our futures should impact a large population, not just ourselves.
We spent a great deal of time working on our Breakthrough Blueprints — the plan of action that we would take in order to achieve our desired futures. The blueprints allowed us to categorize our ideal futures into manageable goals and "stretch" goals.
Not only did the Breakthrough Blueprint help us figure out what we are most passionate about, it also enabled us to help others develop their ideas into realistic approaches. Although most of our time at LeaderShape was spent in the learning community with all other participants, we also had our own “family clusters.” These groups consisted of ten or so fellow students and one faculty member.
We spent a few hours each day with our family cluster. We shared our personal stories with each other, worked together to solve problems, gave each other advice and feedback, and planned and performed skits together for the rest of the community.
LeaderShape was spent with empowering, motivated and passionate individuals. Each person at the institute was focused on creating better versions of themselves and their communities. LeaderShape had a profound impact on me.
With the skills we acquired at LeaderShape, I am confident in my generation’s ability to create a future led with integrity.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.