What is a Leader?: Reflecting on the Laidlaw Journey

What is a Leader?: Reflecting on the Laidlaw Journey

I still remember receiving my acceptance letter 18 months ago:
'Congratulations, I’m delighted to inform you that you have been selected to join the 2022 cohort of Laidlaw Scholars at Trinity.' wrote Joel, the Laidlaw coordinator.

Thinking back to that time and reflecting on where I am today; I can say that I've become a more confient and fast person; and it's safe to say that the Laidlaw scholarship has helped me become who I am today.

The Laidlaw scholarship is so much more than a conventional scholarship. It's a journey. From the independent research, to the LiA, to meeting others scholars from around the world; it's been a ride with experiences that will stay with me for the future.

I've faced many challenges throught my journey; but these are challenges that helped define my time in the programme. The summer research program was the first insight into dealing with difficult situations, having to self-define and work independently on a difficult research topic in efforts to make a meaningful contribution in a 6 week timeframe. The LiA taught me how to be a self-starter in a completely new and unfamiliar environment, and how to be self-sufficient; seeking new ways to become involved in the LiA.

Importantly, in experiencing these and along my journey, it has taught me to define and how to become a leader. Walking into the first LEAD, all I know about leadership was that it was synonymous with 'boss'. I've since learned that a leader is much more than that; it's someone that inspires and motivates a team to complete a shared interest. My definition has changed to define a leader as a person that works with a team rather than someone that examines a team.

Throughout the Laidlaw journey, there has been significant emphasis placed on globalisation; evidenced by all the traveling capabilities that a Laidlaw scholar has. The definition of a leader also encompasses this facet. A leader is someone that knows, or is at least  aware, of how to deal with people from different backgrounds. A leader is aware that people have different thought processes and ideologies which can be influenced by location. A good leader is one that chooses to, and can lead, a diverse team. This became apparent to me on my LiA where I was required to work alongside the team. The team itself had people from all around the world and of different background; and the team worked well based on the contributions of these different people. The team leader knew how to use individual strengths to favourably influence the project.

Personally, I know am more confident of my own leading style. Although I am by no means certain still of how to correctly lead a high functioning team, I at least have some principles that I've developed throughout my team in the Laidlaw programme, and has been only strengthened by the LiA. An effective leader is one that, I believe, encourages input, listens attentively, is empathetic yet stern and above all can recognise talents and brilliance; and tries to faciliate growth. I've come to find that a leader is actually a much more complex task. The LiA taught me to deal with difficult situations and taught me how to deal with failure; a concept I previously believed impossible. However, I've ever since then learned that even the most competent leaders fail; effective leaders are ones that can recover and deal with it.

An important aspect of the Laidlaw journey was constantly being surrounded by like minded people; people who were eager to learn to become future leaders. Being bunched with other Laidlaw scholars in LEAD sessions allowed for constructive and open dialogues which further added to the LEAD sessions dedicated to teaching the scholars how to become a leader. The LEAD sessions were an incredibly useful resource; and as the LEAD sessions progressed, specifcially the residential LEAD session, the scholars became more comfortable and more open with each other; and I'm confident we've all learned from each other as all of the scholars' backgrounds are completely different to one another. 

An aspect of leadership that was always emphasised in dialogues with the other scholars was ethical leadership and how to lead in a changing landscape. Similarly, ethical leadership was a topic that was exercised during both my LiA and summer research project. Ethical dilemmas are often faced in leadership, and while working in a team on my LiA, the team had to make decisions that were not always straightforward. I have learned that it is important to have a diverse team that can facilitate constructive feedback in efforts to make an informed decision. I believe as a leader it is impossible to be an ethical leader without also being a democratic one; taking a sole decision as a leader is inherently not ethical. 

The Laidlaw journey highlighted the importance of leadership, and was a journey which started with me having a vastly different view and attitude towards leadership today. Throughout the journey I've made some unforgettable experiences and have met some interesting and passionate people that have helped shape my experience and have helped in making the Laidlaw experience an unforgettable one.

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Go to the profile of Jimena Alvarez
about 2 months ago

What an inspiring relfection Mihai!