Inspired to lead

Written by College Counsellor, Ali Mills

“Leadership is not a rank or a position, it is a choice – a choice to look after the person to the left of us and the person to the right of us.” Simon Sinek.

Emmanuel College proudly offers a robust leadership development program to our entire student leader cohort. The roles are diverse ranging from positions on our student executive team, to office holders and wing leaders, with many opportunities on offer throughout the year to develop leadership skills through training, workshops, small group sessions and one-on-one staff support.

In redeveloping and refining the leadership program for our 2022 student leaders, as College Counsellor I drew upon my previous experience as Psychosocial Team Leader at a nation-wide not-for-profit organisation working with young people. Part of this role involved training and supporting staff and youth leaders to care for others. This work is not dissimilar to the work our leaders undertake within this community.

Our leaders start their Emmanuel leadership at the end of a university year, where the reigns are handed over by the previous year’s leadership team. Initial conversation prompts include “What is leadership?”, “What is the role I’ve stepped into?” and “Who am I, and what can I bring to both of these things?”

As much as the roles of student leaders within Emmanuel have a longstanding history, and one that is worthy of handover, each year our students have the opportunity to choose what they hold onto, what they let go of and what they redefine for the year ahead. This will inevitably be shaped by the personal attributes and values that they themselves, and they as a collective, bring.

British-American author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek talks about leadership being about the little choices we make consistently. It’s a choice to step into our role, to show up, to keep trying, to reflect, learn and grow. He explains it’s not a role or a destination, and it’s as much about who we are as what we do.

Leadership is not always easy. It can be incredibly difficult to be the kind of leader we want to be when we’re tired, stressed, overwhelmed and have a million things going on, which is more than likely to happen at some point in the leaders’ year ahead. Discussions about boundaries and self-care, and the potential challenges within the community that our leaders will face are topics we cover as a platform to educate student leaders about coping skills and strategies.

As we approach the end of the year, and as new student leaders are elected by their peers, our next opportunity to meet is in, what we refer to as, P Week, just prior to O Week. During this week we really drill down into what our leaders need to know prior to new and returning students imminently arriving onsite; ways to balance leadership and one’s own academic priorities, ways to take up a peer support role, ways to support cultural and gender diversity, drugs and alcohol education and how to shape culture with specific reference to sexual assault and disclosures. It’s a busy few weeks, interspersed with the leaders’ own preparations for O Week, but our goal is to leave them feeling prepared, inspired and connected to supports available for them to succeed in their various roles. We also offer this again as a check-in session at the start of Semester 2.

As Dr Brene Brown states, “As you think about your own path to daring leadership, remember Joseph Campbell’s wisdom: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you’re meant to serve and support, and for your culture. Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armour. And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid. At the exact same time.”

We look forward to welcoming our new student leaders to the leadership team for 2023.