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The first attribute I have developed is social and cultural intelligence and awareness. Having conducted a research project collecting primary data using surveys from people on the street, learning the most effective method of approach was crucial, which differed from country to country. Coming across as approachable, friendly and professional was a skill we all fine honed especially taking into account how different cultures react to stranger interactions. 

The second attribute I developed was collaboration and team working. Being on a team with people I didn’t know particularly well beforehand and travelling together for 5 weeks meant that this attribute was crucial. However not only was easy with the people in my group, but it was a pleasure to build a friendship with them that went beyond the professional nature of our task. 

Lastly an attribute developed was research and project management skills. Having to use stata to organise a large data set and conducting econometric analysis on it was the crux of the research. Likewise so was effectively splitting up the team around the city and later working on different parts of the paper to achieve maximum efficiency.

In the future I would like to develop my creative thinking skills. Specifically, the fostering of innovation to optimise whatever task I am working on. Looking at instrumental processes and simplifying them to make them more effective is what makes a leader/team really stand out. Hence I want to develop these skills in the future.

Moreover, I want to improve my digital connectivity skills to become a stronger and more varied communicator. I would like to work on a project that utilises the power of social media specifically and how it impacts different stakeholders. 

When applying for the programme, I commented that there is a fundamental paradox at what it means to be a leader: that is tension between a leaders need for delegation and authority, yet having to lead by example and empathetically. At their core delegation and leading by examples are antonymic. Moreover the very expertise they require from their subordinates must be collected into one plan, yet there is an irony in implementing a recommendation of someone despite them knowing their field better. For example a leader of a county most likely cannot understand the intricacies of nuclear energy and yet they are the ones to implement it into an energy system. 

Hence I wanted to explore this paradoxical nature and analyse how different leaders dealt with that fact, specifically the successful ones. Over two years later, as I write this now, I have formed a stronger opinion. A good leader must be in recognition of that fact. The empathy they require constitutes their right to authority. By leading by example they earn their delegating powers. Moreover, their ability to obtain knowledge from people they work with combining knowledge between disciplines into an actionable plan is a leaders main task. The nature of this requires delegation and authority yet empathy respect and communication, which is why the paradox of leadership is the crux of what it means to be one.

One way my leadership qualities have developed are through the prioritisation of listening. Different people have different modes of thinking that create solutions to different problems. A good team is one that balances out each others incompetencies. where one member is lacking, another is well versed. 

The effect of this programme on my future is twofold. The first is the professional and technical skills I gained while helping set up a think tank and writing a research paper. These being econometric skills, academic writing and the process around it (literature reviews, ethics proposals etc), funding models and the role and stakeholders around think tanks. These skills are tangible and directly transferable to other roles. These skills are a means to an end. However, and perhaps more importantly the effect of this programme has also had less tangible implications for my future that are less professional, but more human. I’ve learnt to travel, to build friendships and embrace the inevitable diversity and perspective that comes with being part of a group of over 20. This to me is invaluable. It’s taught me to be less judgmental and more curious. It’s taught me the importance of being international, and to put social amelioration over profit. The memories I’ve made on this programme have been a highlight of my university experience and one I greatly appreciate. 

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Go to the profile of Alexi Foliadis
about 2 months ago

I really enjoyed reading your post Andrea! I feel we had went through similar journeys on our Laidlaw research projects, I felt like I could relate with a lot of the sentiment in your post.

Go to the profile of Dávid Erbszt
about 2 months ago

Terrific piece of writing, I am endlessly inspired by your journey. Particularly pleased that you are less judgmental now than you were before Laidlaw - what a stellar measure of personal growth. Keep up the good work and I wish you endless success and abundance in your future ventures!