Writer o ers insight to LeaderShape experience

Kyle Almond

At 4 p.m. Jan 14, I and approximately 40 Washburn students met in the Lifelong Learning Center at the Tall Oaks Conference Center for the inaugural session of the LeaderShape Institute for the university. The Student Activities and Greek Life Offi ce, the Washburn Student Government Association, The Institute of the Study and Practice of Leadership and Dr. Denise Ottinger hosted the event.

LeaderShape is a six-day program based out of Champaign, Ill., dedicated to teaching college students to lead with integrity. The question was posed to us right away, “What would the world be like if everybody led with integrity?”

Facilitators David Pittman and Cory Hobert were brought in to lead the institute. Their eccentric personalities and animated styles made learning the basics of leadership a great experience. Every meal they would sit with different groups of students, and they were extremely well liked by the students there.

The fi rst day was entitled “Building Community” and that is exactly what happened. Most of the day was spent getting comfortable around the other students and fi nding out what LeaderShape is about. After that we were divided up into family clusters, each led by a Washburn faculty member. Some the most meaningful and memorable moments of LeaderShape occurred in these family clusters.

On day two, we were to learn about the “Value of One, The Power of All.” We learned about our default personality types: domineering, infl uential, stable or conscientious. The afternoon session was centered on the importance of inclusive leadership and the prevalence of stereotypes and prejudices. For many students, the biggest part of the second day was the creation of “GAGs.” GAG represented “going against my grain” and meant a behavior that we rarely or never tried but would like to try. Everybody encouraged the members of their family cluster to keep working on their GAG throughout the week.

On day three, “Challenging What Is, Looking to What Could Be,” every student created a vision for a better world. The visions could be anything that the student was passionate about and it couldn’t be something small or easy. Visions ranged from shelters and safe houses to improved Greek Life across the country to a United States with 100 percent voter turnout. We then created a headline for a newspaper of the future about the vision coming to bear. Afterward the headlines were hung around the Learning Center and students walked around with pads of sticky notes, leaving feedback and constructive criticism. The day ended with a guest panel consisting of a business leader, a brigadier general and a Kansas Supreme Court justice speaking on their personal experiences in the area of leadership.

“Bringing Vision to Reality” was the title for day four. The bulk of the day consisted of breaking our visions into “stretch goals” and “manageable goals.” Another major activity was “Earth Quake,” which taught about the importance of synergy in group work and also about how to reach a consensus when members have many different opinions. However, the activity that most of us will remember from day four was a controversial game called “StarPower.” The activity was very complicated, and 40 different students came away with 40 different opinions of it and 40 different lessons learned. One thing is for certain: nobody was apathetic about the simulation.

On day fi ve, “Living and Leading with Integrity,” we looked at making ethical decisions and living in congruence with our core values. In the evening there was a skit show put on by the fi ve family clusters that reviewed the lessons learned. The evening ended in the family clusters with a look back at the week.

The last day, “Staying in Action,” consisted of a brief discussion on bringing what we had learned back to Washburn with us, followed by a short commencement ceremony. At the ceremony Washburn President Jerry Farley and Robin Bowen, vice president of academic affairs, spoke from their knowledge of leadership. Afterward there was one last meal together before heading home. Once the bus was loaded and then unstuck from the ice, we were on our way back to campus.