Unveiling Transformation: My Leadership-in-Action Journey at the European Commission

When I found out that I was selected to undertake my Leadership-in-Action (LiA) project at the European Commission, I was nothing short of thrilled. But my grand expectations changed drastically — for the better.
Unveiling Transformation: My Leadership-in-Action Journey at the European Commission

When I found out that I was selected to undertake my Leadership-in-Action (LiA) project at the European Commission, I was nothing short of thrilled. As someone who had been volunteering extensively with the European Youth Parliament for many years, this felt like a culmination of my passions turning into professional development. Naturally, I held rather high and specific expectations, which, as I started working, underwent a significant recalibration for the better. 

The transformation of my expectations and goals reflected a growth in my understanding of the workplace, shifting from an initially naive perspective. But, let’s take it from the start. 

Based in Brussels, I worked at the Directorate-General for International Partnerships of the European Commission. My work focused on India, and particularly the proliferation of green energy and gender-inclusive policies. My tasks were varied; they included attending ad-hoc meetings which I had to summarise and report back to my unit, as well as more high-profile appointments, like transcribing the minutes of a Political and Security Committee meeting, to circulate across the whole Directorate. 

The atrium of the Europa Building, where the Council of the European Union is based

More long-term tasks included advancing the work done on a public-use document by our predecessor in the LiA, Eugenia. The work entailed contacting project managers for details and data, drafting summaries that succinctly described the projects, and analysing their impact. Under the vast umbrella of EU’s foreign policy, now coined as the ‘Global Gateway’, documents such as this are vital for transparency and accountability, but also with regards to accessibility of the information to European citizens.  

Another responsibility we were bestowed, was reviewing policy documents for projects based in India. The major thematics we worked on were green energy and gender-inclusive policies. We were asked to conduct research, review policy documents, and provide constructive criticism. 

Upon entering the glossy building of the Directorate-General of International Partnerships, I was braced with ambition, excitement, and eagerness to learn. However, as my LiA experience unfolded, I came to realize that my initial aspirations were somewhat idealistic. The world of policy-making and development, as I discovered firsthand, is one where patience, persistence, and the accumulation of incremental efforts are essential. Through this invaluable real-world exposure, I gained a profound empirical understanding of how this intricate process truly operates.

The offices for the Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG-INTPA)

My supervisor, Sib, was my primary point of contact, who guided me as to how the Commission and the Directorate functioned. Beyond that, he was also incredibly willing and proactive in engaging and introducing me to a wide network of people. In his mentorship, Sib imparted implicit, but valuable lessons, emphasising the importance of proactive inquiry and self-reliance. He taught me that I would gain as much as I sought to gain. Effort and eagerness were crucial. Lastly, the trust he placed in me when assigning tasks played a pivotal role in my growth, enabling me to step up for my responsibilities.

Other colleagues within the Directorate were also significant stakeholders in my journey. As work within our sub-departments was often intertwined, I had to engage with people from different units to gain a deeper understanding of our work, as well as gather information.  

Oftentimes, we also had to engage with external stakeholders, such as representatives from the Ministry of India, governmental representatives from Vietnam and Bhutan, as well as members of the Political and Security Committee. That opportunity was vital in helping me enhance my skills in professional conduct, as well as leveraging contacts to secure long-term partnerships. Many of the meetings we attended with such stakeholders were vital in progressing local projects in our partner countries, as we had secured tangible points of contact and established channels of communication. 

Leadership, I learnt, extends beyond titles. It's about taking initiative and managing tasks independently, as my supervisor encouraged us to do. This autonomy allowed me to develop essential leadership skills such as self-reliance and the ability to navigate complex situations without being micromanaged. Moreover, I streamlined my ability to foster positive interpersonal relationships and navigate the nuances of workplace dynamics. These soft skills are the bedrock of effective leadership, as they enabled me to engage with diverse teams, adapt to changing circumstances, and contribute meaningfully to the collaborative efforts of my Unit.

Our work within the LiA made a significant impact by proliferating green policy to reduce India’s carbon emissions, as well as integrating gender-inclusive policies into Indian development programs, thereby enhancing women's access to opportunities. To ensure the sustainability of our impact, we have made sure to establish ongoing and consistent communication channels with Indian partners and knowledge-sharing platforms, ensuring that the positive changes initiated by our project persist, leaving a mark of sustainability and progress.

To wrap up, the LiA was an undeniably enriching learning experience. As my initial expectations were deemed rather naive, they were also transformed for the better. Working in a new and personally challenging environment at the European Commission encompassed valuable lessons. Adaptability and resilience emerged as critical attributes, allowing me to navigate unfamiliar territory effectively. Patience and perseverance became essential when confronting complex bureaucratic processes, underscoring the need to stay committed to our long-term goals. Furthermore, the experience emphasised the value of teamwork, as collaboration with diverse colleagues underscored the importance of collective effort, embracing different viewpoints, and fostering cultural sensitivity. These lessons continue to guide my approach to work, enabling me to thrive in any professional setting and contribute meaningfully to collaborative endeavours.

Without a doubt, I have to thank my mentor, Sib Hayer for his unparalleled guidance and support, and of course, LSE LIFE and the Laidlaw Foundation for enabling this to happen in the first place.

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