What Kind of Leader Am I?: Reflections from Leadership Camp

Grade 8 CAIS Leadership Conference group

by Sophia T., Grade 8

When I first heard about the CAIS Leadership Camp last year, I was filled with excitement and immediately wanted to sign up. Who wouldn’t want to go to an awesome camp in Ontario with people from independent schools all over Canada to make new connections and learn new skills? I definitely did!

And little did I know just what an amazing opportunity this school trip was going to be. This trip was a really unique leadership opportunity where you learned about new aspects of leadership and essential elements needed for a good team.

At Camp Onondaga, we went to different events such as meeting with guest speakers to listen to their perspectives on the meaning of leadership, and going to fun and interactive activities planned by teachers to deepen our understanding of concepts such as creating an eco-friendly environment. We also went around doing camp activities such as ziplining into the water and canoeing. These were perfect opportunities to make some new friends.

One of my favourite parts from the CAIS Leadership Camp was learning this really cool analogy about the different types of leaders that all of us can be:

Imagine a canoe boat paddling along the calm water. First we were asked to observe the person at the front of the canoe; the person that makes all the big decisions like whether certain risks should be taken in order to manage the team. Next in the canoe we have all the cargo. This would consist of the plan for the success of the team, like the steps that need to be done in order to reach a certain point, or elements that need to be ensured for the team to be effective. Then we have the person at the back. This person has one of the most important roles within the team because they are the ones that stay behind the scenes and make sure that everything is on track, organized, and solves conflicts within the team.

This analogy made me think of where I would be in this scene. What kind of leader am I?

I feel like this analogy really changed my perspective on what it means to be a leader because it shows that you don’t have to be the one speaking at the front in order to be a leader; you can also have one of the most important roles and stay behind the scenes, but keep everything together.

I learned that being a leader doesn’t mean fighting for the lead role or getting to be the main person that is the head of the council and has the greatest title. I can also develop my leadership skills by learning how to follow. The ideas don’t always have to come from you. Learn to say, “It’s a good idea,” and don’t be afraid to follow someone’s lead.

Sometimes this is even harder than being the person up front. In order to be a good leader you need to be able to follow others, to really be able to put yourself in your team members’ shoes and really understand them and help them, like in our Portrait of a Learner quality: empathy. And as our teachers always say, “Don’t be afraid to step in or step back.”

Now that I have come back from the CAIS Leadership Camp, a few things that I would really like to apply to my Grade 8 year would be to use the essential elements for a good team and my new knowledge on how to be a leader versus a manager. I feel like we do a lot of group projects in Middle School and I think it is really cool to have these elements with you to help you along the way and really enhance your collaboration skills. Also I think it is really important to know how to be a leader rather than a manager and encourage the people around you to do their best.

If I were to bring back any idea to the wider Middle School community I would definitely continue spreading a mindset around creating an eco-friendly environment and spreading the leader versus manager idea throughout our community. I think lots of students would benefit from having that knowledge, and be able to work towards being the leader that they want to see.

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Sophia T. is a student at St. Michaels University School.

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