Final Reflections

On the Laidlaw Scholars Programme
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Upon completion of the Laidlaw Scholars Programme, I’ve gained a more concrete and experiential understanding of leadership. I realize that at the start I had a unidimensional and slightly naïve conception of leadership: I thought that, broadly, leadership consisted of empowering and elevating others to do their best work. But now, it seems to me that the features of leadership differ depending on the type of team and activity/project one is undertaking – in this sense leadership is multidimensional and context dependent. It is very different to lead a team where people are motivated and feel part of the project, to a team where people like their work but mostly do it because they are forced to comply (e.g., paid to do so), to a team where members are disinterested and unengaged. The decentralized form of leadership I mentioned earlier would not necessarily be very good for the last case. Effective leadership differs significantly in each of these contexts and a leader needs to be able to recognize what situation they find themselves in, and how to go about eliciting the best work from their team.

In most circumstances, I’ve realized leadership is firstly about awareness and sensitivity to all factors that could influence the process and outcome: your team members - their motivation and feelings, their work style- and the project: timelines, importance. This must be followed by effective prioritization because a leader cannot pay attention to absolutely everything, no matter how invested they are. So good leaders can discern what factors need time and attention and which can set be aside (while still maintaining awareness of them and how they can affect the course of the project). Finally, I think a good leader is also always a step ahead: anticipating issues to be able to reflect and react appropriately if they do arise.

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During the programme I’ve developed in awareness of my leadership style, and what sorts of teams and environments I like to work in. Importantly, I realized I like to work in teams where members have similar levels of commitment and motivation to a project. During my research project, I found it difficult to remain engaged when working amongst team members with differing levels of motivation. The experience made me realize not only the importance of motivation, but also how a good leader must be perceptive to differing levels of motivation and adjust accordingly. Although to a lesser extent, I also witnessed this during my leadership in action project at the European Commission: being efficient required constantly adjusting to peoples’ differing levels of involvement across the organization, something I saw my mentor do often.

During the research project, I found that I struggled with resilience and determination at a team level, even though they are attributes I usually do not have trouble with on an individual level. I have my other team members to thank for the motivation to complete the project when our prospects were dire. I realized that developing group resilience is something that must be done empathically and collaboratively.

I also developed my communication skills, especially during my leadership in action project since I had to speak to many different people from different contexts and collaborate with them as part of the work. This also enrichened my relationships and honed abilities to engage with a diverse range of people, increased social and cultural intelligence and awareness.

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The Laidlaw Scholars Programme has given me more than I could have ever asked for. Starting with the workshops and trainings, where we built the foundations of our leadership skills, not only for the programme, but for any leadership situation in the future. Personally, I gained a lot from my leadership in action project since the Programme allowed me to access work at a European institution, which I would have never been able to do otherwise as a first-year undergraduate. From there I take the experience and knowledge from working in an international institution in international development, a workplace and sector that I’m interested in. This may help me in future career progression. Thanks to this experience I also met a great mentor, who has continued to help me navigate my career path.

 My research project helped me a lot too, although in different ways to my LiA. I learnt a lot about what not to do in research and I think it was very valuable for me to understand what kind of research I would like to do in future, if I undertake it again.

 This programme has helped me gain the skills, experience, and motivation to do impactful work in future. Being surrounded by people with similar ambitions at LSE Laidlaw and from other universities at Laidlaw Conferences, has changed my perception about what the future holds when people who are determined to have a positive impact realize their potential.

 Most importantly, I’m grateful for the people I’ve met throughout the program. I’ve made invaluable relationships that will continue to be so in future

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