Leadership Lessons: Key Insights from our Leadership Series Kick-Off Event

Leadership Lessons: Key Insights from our Leadership Series Kick-Off Event

Leadership Lessons: Key Insights from our Leadership Series Kick-Off Event

The alumni UBC Career Development program kicked off our year-long leadership series with an alumNIGHTS: Leadership Lessons event last week. Alumni, current UBC students, and members of the community came out to hear about leadership from our esteemed host Shelina Esmail, BA’93, moderator Robin Gill, BA’93, and panelists Zack Eberwein, BASc ’17, Marsha Walden, BCom’80, Ryan Spong, BA’99 and Carmen Lee, BA’01. These individuals came from eclectic backgrounds both academically and in their professional careers. Each brought their own unique insights and perspectives to their thoughts on leadership.

Development Programs

What was clear from the discussion were several insights. The first was on the value of structured development programs. Many speakers highlighted the benefits and values of career coaching as a means to become aware of their skills, strengths and areas for opportunity. Career coaching was also viewed as a way to then help others.

Leadership programs were also identified as being valuable, specifically those that are put in place by current employers or contracted organizations who specialize in leadership development. However, as one panelist acknowledged, there is more that can be done to foster leadership in organizations. In large organizations, particularly, it’s easy to get lost, and finding a mentor is important. Some organizations may have formal mentorship programs, but finding a colleague to provide guidance can work just as well.

Soft Skills

Another insight was into the importance of self-awareness and other soft skills in developing and strengthening leadership. There are many hurdles that can arise when developing leadership skills. Imposter syndrome was a common hurdle that was addressed by the panelists, which is the idea that one may feel unworthy or unqualified for the type of work one is doing. However sometimes what can hold you back can also become an asset. In the case of one panelist, his young age – something he considered a hurdle – actually was seen as an asset by one of his organization’s investors. Acknowledging your weaknesses and working through them is a soft skill that is key to developing leadership skills.

Often leaders are viewed as top-down figures of authority. While one’s formal title may give them oversight of a team or project, it is important not to have the right answers but to ask the right questions. Leaders should facilitate discussion. Often the best answers come from asking good questions.

Continuing on the topic of soft skills, one that also came up was risk-taking. Many of the speakers acknowledged the importance of challenging themselves and stepping out of their comfort zone. Leaving a comfortable job is certainly a risk for many, however being able to see when you are not being motivated, when you are not enjoying waking up and going to work and making that leap into a new yet uncertain opportunity is a big factor in developing leadership skills. In the words of one panelist, when one door closes another opens, but you have to make a conscious choice to walk through that open door!

Another soft skill that was addressed by panelists was the ability to transfer their leadership skills from work to personal life. Many of the skills that are developed becoming a leader can also be applied to relationships: empathy, listening, support, attentiveness. The key is being able to bridge the gap, identify these transferable skills, and apply them as best you can in all aspects of your life.

Non-Traditional Leadership

Finally, one key insight was the non-traditional ways in which leadership is developed. Each of the speakers acknowledged that leadership is a process that comes differently to everyone. For example, just because you don’t have leadership in your title does not mean you’re not a leader. On that note, leadership is often not hierarchical, but rather cyclical. Leadership can be developed in explicit and implicit ways throughout one’s career.

We would like to sincerely thank all the speakers and guests who joined us last week for this event. If you were unable to join us on December 4th, we have good news! alumni UBC has created a podcast from the event for your listening pleasure. Please feel free to hear more about the event here:

We look forward to our next event as part of our year-long series on leadership and hope you will follow us for more details!

Author Biography

Alexander Howes is the Alumni Career Assistant with the alumni UBC Career Development program. He is a current student in the Master of Public Policy & Global Affairs program at UBC, with seven years experience in career development.

Alexander is always eager to learn more about the exciting pathways of UBC alumni and how they view leadership.