“Leaders must lead by example,” said Bill Mathis P’13 to more than 80 HWS and Geneva high school students who filled the Vandervort Room. “If you cannot lead yourself, you cannot lead others.”
Mathis, the former executive vice president of MasterCard Corporate, was one of more than 30 facilitators to speak during the Leadership Institute’s two and a half day conference earlier this month. Bill offered the keynote address with his wife, Lisa Mathis P’13, the director of executive talent for Merrill Lynch.
Over the course of their presentation, students were asked to complete phrases that best illustrated who they were on a number of levels including: “The Real Me,” “How I’ve Been Influenced and How I’ve Influenced Others,” and “What I Want and What I Need.” In doing so, the couple provided students with a powerful self-assessment exercise.
“Before leading, you must first know yourself,” explained Lisa. “You must be authentic so that you will excel at networking, creating and giving.”
Another presenter, Trustee Dr. Steve Cohen ’67, the founder and principal of the Strategic Learning Collaborative, led a two-part workshop on “Leading the Self to Lead Others.” Other workshops allowed students to explore volunteerism and advocacy, public speaking, and using technology and social media effectively.
Following the self assessments, students were surprised. “This was kind of a shock,” remarked Aminata Dansoko ’15. “For many of the answers, I could not think of a response – which makes me realize that we often go through life without reflection; and this can cause problems because we don’t stop to think about the situation and about ourselves.”
“You don’t have an immense amount of time to get a message across,” Jessie Hall ’14 noted. “I think this exercise will help us to get our ideas across more concisely in the future.”
“We want you to take these responses made in the moment and use them to inform your development plans,” explained Bill. “We want you to look back over time, on your journey to becoming a leader, and see how these responses change as you learn and grow.”
Throughout the conference, students attended self-selected workshops, tailoring the institute to their interests and needs in order to gain the confidence and skills to be effective leaders. Many noted that the conference provided them with a new set of tools to approach their positions of leadership and grow in their relations with others – learning how to handle stress, problems and other issues.
At the end of the conference, Allie Smith ’13 was glad she participated. “I’ve come out of these past few days and I see that I have a lot to give – a lot more than I thought I did,” remarked Smith.
High school student Sebastian Bersani found the workshops on classifying different types of leaders particularly helpful. “It was cool to figure out what kind of leader I am – and what that means for working better with other personalities and types of other leaders,” said Bersani.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Montrose Streeter discussed transformational leadership, citing King as an exemplary model. Those who rise to the status of a transformational leader not only change and transform the individuals of a movement, but change and grow themselves. These leaders move followers to accomplish more than is expected of them.
“Who would have thought that a group of people in Montgomery, Alabama, would stop riding the buses, acting as a launch pad for the Civil Rights Movement?” asked Streeter. “Who would have thought that these uneducated, unempowered people – who were second class citizens – would have changed the world?”
“You should leave this conference with a new frame of mind,” said Streeter. “Each life that you touch makes a difference. We all have the ability to make a difference on the corners and in the schools of our communities.”
The conference was hosted by the Centennial Center for Leadership.