By Lauren Rosegreen, Camp Counselor Alumnae from the United Kingdom
I first discovered the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) when I applied through the Smaller Earth Camp Leaders program to work at a summer camp in America. Cultural Homestay International (CHI) was my sponsor for my first ever cultural exchange experience, as I went to work as a dance counsellor at Camp Alleghany in West Virginia. Fast-forward three years, and I found myself applying for another EVP to work-abroad as a lifeguard at NJY Teen Camp, Pennsylvania. From enhanced career opportunities to life-long friendships and unforgettable memories, both experiences changed my life. So it was no surprise that when I heard about the opportunity for past EVP participants to apply to become international delegates at the Global Pathfinder Summit (GPS), I jumped at the chance.
The Importance of Exemplary Leadership
The Global Pathfinder Summit enabled me to connect with other young people from around the world to bring about the common aim of creating sustainable local and global change. Throughout the GPS conference, many keynote speakers emphasized the importance of exemplary leadership.
Brennan Gould particularly resonated with me as I was able to identify with her story. I too have one white and one black parent, grew up in a rural, predominantly white background and, due to my mixed heritage, experienced confusion surrounding my identity and shared culture. (Brennan and I even bonded over not being able to swish our ponytails due to having afro-Caribbean hair)! I mention this because her views on leadership derive from her personal experiences growing up. Thus, I feel a personal connection towards her ideas on what is needed to become a good leader.
1. “Be your authentic self.”
Brennan’s first point was to stop performing and be your authentic self. This ties in with keynote speaker Catherine Constantinides’ view that authentic leadership is crucial to create genuine social change. Looking back, I wasn’t always my authentic self growing up as I molded my persona to fit into whatever culture I thought was necessary. This, at times, made me integrally doubt my leadership abilities. At the GPS, Liziane Silva introduced me to the concept of the imposter syndrome; a term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have an irrational fear of being exposed as a fraud. She emphasized that if you are being your authentic self, you are enough. Going forward I will remember that as a leader it is crucial to be your authentic self. If all leaders adopt this mindset it will bring about a genuine, positive impact on society.
2. “Figure out your personal values.”
The second point that Brennan made was that a good leader must figure out what their values are and stick to them. Since returning to England from the GPS I have been contemplating what my own moral principles are. I have uncovered that I hold fairness and impartiality as my highest values. I realized that equity in this sense was the reason I completed a Bachelor of Laws degree, volunteered to give free legal advice to people who otherwise would have been denied access, and organized Streetlaw community outreach projects. On reflection, it is interesting that this value has significantly impacted my career and personal life choices. I have always been open-minded, integrally placing value on a prejudice-free way of life, but have never seen the true importance of embodying this quality within my own leadership until now.
3. “Have the courage to do things differently.”
Brennan’s final point emphasized that sticking to your values may require courage. She stated that good leaders should not be scared to see or do things differently. Immediately, Larry Terry’s GPS workshop on conversations across differences comes to mind. He highlighted that you won’t see eye to eye with everyone but, when conflict arises in leadership, it is important to strive for a “shared pool of meaning.” This will allow for new alternatives that recognize and represent both viewpoints. Going forward, I am no longer afraid to face conflict in leadership as the GPS has equipped me with the tools and techniques needed to get over the barrier of differences. I now have the confidence to do things differently, stick to my values and be my authentic self.
The GPS experience has made me reflect on my leadership qualities, uncover my own values and equipped me with the means to create positive social change. However, this is not all. Catherine Constantinides advocated that we all have a duty to encourage the next generation of leaders to create change. My time at the GPS has highlighted the importance of encouraging the next generation of leaders to be responsible for their own future.
We are all responsible for creating social change. When stepping into leadership roles being your authentic self is imperative to becoming an exemplary leader and building a more sustainable future.
|About G. Kevin Saba|
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange
G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.Read More
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