Laidlaw Summer! Here We Go Again (2021)

My reflections and inspirations from the Leadership in Action project.

Like Comment

Another summer, another great project (almost) done. Yet again, the time has come to revisit my leadership statement, cringe over it, and appreciate the progress I have made. My leadership journey was definitely non-standard; I have always been very focused on other people, so in this project I needed to look inward. My research project allowed me to practice self-leadership and observe myself working solo, while this summer is the perfect opportunity to observe my behaviour and reactions in a group setting. Together with a team of like-minded people I helped to design and deliver summer camp programmes for children. Although I have some experience in volunteering with kids, spending the whole project in the character of a coordinator was a completely new experience for me. In this post I want to share my reflections and surprising changes in my behaviour.

  • This new environment definitely helped me to distinguish between challenging someone’s decision versus challenging someone’s position as a leader. There were a few instances where as a team we did not agree on the best way to resolve certain situations and at first I was hesitant to fight for my proposals. However, we had a really empowering and open conversation and I realized no one will take it personally if I speak my mind. I was not attacking someone’s position and undermining their leadership skills, rather proposing another solution that we could take into account. It was quite empowering and I exercised that power a few more times to suggest new solutions to the problems we had.
  • Leadership is setting boundaries. Part of the leadership that I did not developed so much during the first summer was setting clear boundaries, both with the people I was working with, as well as myself. In order to work effectively we needed to be well-rested and energized, therefore I was a huge advocate for taking turns and taking some time off. I often had a feeling that there was always something to do and taking time off will be seen as slacking. However, around Wednesday each week we could see our energy levels going down and we were just tired from working all around the clock. Realising that gave us the power to organize our sessions, so we could take some time off. We were a small team, so it was not a problem to schedule our breaks, we were really flexible, but I keep in mind that in a bigger group we might have had to come up with some system to divide the shifts evenly and fairly.
  • I have also learned how to stay in the line. Because of the fact that this is my first summer in the company, I was not assigned the formal position of a leader yet. It means that in my team there was someone who was slightly higher in the hierarchy who could give me orders and sometimes have a last word in an important matter. It was a great lesson for me to listen carefully and sometimes just do what I am asked to do. I had many ideas on how to improve the programme and I was putting forward some of them, but I have also learned that there are times where listening and completing the assigned tasks is more important and gives better results.

Overall, this summer is passing by at a dizzying pace and I am really glad that I was able to devote a great part of it to this project. Through the Laidlaw Scholarship I am slowly discovering my passion for teaching and education, so I hope that this experience will also guide me in my future career choices.

Ania Bajerska

Laidlaw Undergraduate Research Scholar, St Andrews

I am a second-year student at the University of St Andrews, pursuing a Joint Honours Degree in Economics and Sustainable Development. My vision is to enable more sustainability-oriented initiatives through financial tools and market-based solutions. One of my other interests is literature, that is why my summer research project is an attempt to understand the representation of nature in current children’s environmental literature and define the relationships between “nature literacy”, education, sustainability and social transition. Outside of my studies I enjoy staying active (water sports are my favourite) and baking.