Scholars Blog Post

A post to reflect on the summers leadership lunch events and looking ahead to the start of my upcoming leadership in action project.

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This summer as a second year scholar the scheme shifts more directly to focus on the leadership development of us scholars and to our Leadership in Action projects. This development of us as leaders for some scholars has begun in earnest with them having started their project but my project has yet to begin. As a result my leadership development has come much more in the form and the talks the Laidlaw team have been putting on for us, some of these have featured guest speakers or come from team members themselves. 

In our previous leadership weekend we were fortunate enough to have a previous Laidlaw scholar return to give a talk on their experience with leadership during and after the scheme. While when they participated in the scheme it took a different form, they had gone out of their way to pursue other leadership opportunities. Their insight came at the issue of leadership very differently from the way that they had often been presented through the rest of this weekend. Rather than looking at different leadership styles or some of the behaviours we should strive toward, the previous scholar gave an account of her first real experience leading a project at the university. In the talk she mentioned some of the conflicts between her personal aspirations for how to be perceived by the group and how she wished to be a leader. Her more personal insights and presenting this emotional conflict that her leadership position presented was useful in highlighting a side of leadership which the scheme hadn’t emphasised before. I have found this useful as while it has been informative to have styles of leadership to strive for and ways to respond to issues that arrive; knowing to keep an eye out for more subtle ways of forming a bad leadership habit may prove more useful in the more formative stages of my leadership. 

Beginning this summer we have had the leadership lunches which have been a great way to both learn about the other scholars and their projects including the year below and to learn about leadership. We have had two of these lunches, the first of which was more to meet scholars and talk about our projects. The second was a talk from Alex about what the purpose of leadership is and what different ways that we can actively get into leadership. This first meeting was very inspiring to meet many of the other scholars for the first time and to hear about their research projects or Leadership in Action project. The passion for their disciplines, research projects or the betterment of the communities near to their hearts was inspiring to hear from so many. Alex’s talk on the purpose of leadership and how to take small steps toward it was an interesting different take on some of the philosophies behind leadership, and was of particular interest to me. Practicing leadership in a more active sense through smaller activities to bring about change particularly resonated with me. While I do not foresee more traditional leadership positions in my future the idea that the skills developed here would be useful in practically affecting beneficial change is reassuring. 

Later this summer I will begin my leadership in Action project with the Bite Back 2030 organisation. I was successful in applying for their project to design a youth pod. This project revolves around leading a team in the development of a business case for a healthy fast food shop that specifically is targeted toward children and young adults with the aim of combating childhood weight issues. I was not the only scholar to apply for this project and will be leading this project with another scholar from my cohort at St Andrews. A fellow scholar to lead this project will be invaluable to my development as a leader as it will allow for a very direct observation of different leadership styles and techniques. Beyond this it will also require the development of clear communication skills and the ability to analyse our strengths and weaknesses. I think this chance will be of great help as I find that introspection can only take someone's development so far and this external opinion will be key in overcoming and shortcomings that I am unable to notice or resolve. I chose this project for a few key reasons. When we needed to either design or choose a Leadership in Action project I couldn’t find a way to extend my previous years research to provide a tangible benefit to an underserved community. This left me to either find a way to use my degree more generally or participate in a predefined scheme. I chose to find a predefined scheme with a strong cause as I believe it would result in a greater benefit to a community as would allow for the leveraging of already existing connections and groups. I chose the project of developing a youth pod partly because it seems to require a more analytic and information orientated mind than Bite Back 2030’s other projects such as hosting a conference. Beyond the practical concern the aim of the project to counter childhood weight issues is one which is of personal significance to me. 

Looking forward to the project I am excited to confirm the specific details of the project with Bite Back 2030 and I am looking forward to this chance to practice leadership in a more traditional leadership environment. In the coming weeks I shall be in contract with Bite Back 2030 and reviewing the materials we have received on leadership. With the start of my project there will also be the start of my group's action learning sets. These chances to talk with other scholars about the issues that they are facing were a highlight of my previous summer and I hope they shall be the same these coming weeks. Before the project starts I am grateful however for the free time which affords me as I can use this time doing reading in preparation for my masters.