To me, the meaning of leadership evolved immensely throughout the time I spent on the Laidlaw programme. When I initially applied to the programme, I had a passion to incite social change, and I wished to gather the skills to make that happen. Leadership, at that point, had started to make more sense to me through personal experience, watching leaders at university and the workplace flourish and get things done. I understood that leadership involved not only strategic planning and hard work to achieve the goals set out, but also personal skills to ensure that fellow teammates worked effectively and had a rewarding experience. When applying, I intended to develop my understanding of leadership so I knew which qualities I could develop, and how to apply those attributes.
Now, my understanding of leadership is a lot clearer. I not only learned the theoretical framework of leadership through Laidlaw seminars, but also how to apply them, through workshops. The concept of leading without authority is clear to me, and I think it is a vital element of teamwork. Through sessions leading a choir, it was clear to me that one of the duties of a leader is to support the team by having an understanding of their requirements and skills - I didn’t need to be musically talented myself, just like a leader doesn’t need to also possess the skills of each of the team members. Through effective communication and critical thinking, a leader can facilitate the needs of both their team and the project at hand, and ensure that any challenges are met with a clear strategy.
I think one of the most important lessons I learnt was that it is not only the role of a leader to support their team, but to rely on them too. From making decisions to handling deliverables, accepting that leaders are at an equal level to their teammates can make for a much more positive working environment and handling whatever comes the team’s way easier.
Throughout my time on the Laidlaw programme, I was able to use my understanding of leadership to develop my skills as a leader personally. As mentioned earlier, I learned that one could be a leader without having the same experience and hard skills as their teammates, such as music. I encountered many similar situations, both within Laidlaw and outside it, through my degree and work, where teammates possessed different skills. In fact, it became clear that more often than not, a team was put together because different members possessed different skills. This allowed me to lead without authority, and as a leader, I understood the importance of having trust in my teammates to self delegate, which allowed me to shift focus more towards the wellbeing and experience of members in my group. Over long term projects, I found myself prioritising their own personal development as well as progress towards the task at hand - this is a factor that I now find incredibly important in leadership, and I am grateful to the Laidlaw Foundation for highlighting this through leading by example, prioritising the development of the cohort.
I think my resilience also improved through my time with Laidlaw, both directly and indirectly. I understood the importance of determination within projects, but through numerous opportunities to lead, I developed the skills and passion for cultivating a positive environment. This was indeed very helpful, as solidarity proved to be an incredible motivator. While it is the leader’s role to ensure that a team stays resilient, the whole team has the ability to provide support in large numbers, and the benefits of working within the team and the positivity of the atmosphere can outweigh any setbacks. Ensuring team support also means that if a challenge occurs that has large or chaotic implications for the project at hand, the team functions as a unit and team members can develop regardless of the outcome.
Awareness and resilience are some of the many attributes I developed over my time on this programme, which I appreciate dearly. I think the opportunities I had to develop these skills, and the real-life experience I gained on this programme, will be of immense help to me going forward. The decisions I make, and how I progress throughout my career, will be informed by my learnings, and working with the Laidlaw Foundation has truly prepared me to incite social change.