Leadership with heart

ALBERTA – Sixty Michigan Technological University students and six professors are spending the last week of their holiday break at a leadership conference teaching them not just how to lead, but how to lead with their hearts to positively change the world.

They’re participating in a LeaderShape Institute at the Ford Forestry Center in Alberta, where they’re scheduled from dawn until bedtime with simulations, heart-to-heart conversations, lectures and more to help them define their own core values and learn to bring those values to fruition in the world.

“A leader is not always the one with the most power, it can be the person with the most heart or passion,” emailed Cassandra Kussow, an MTU civil and environmental engineering student who attended LeaderShape for the first time last year and returned this year as a student leader.

“LeaderShape helped me to stand for what I believe in and to always have your leadership hat on even if you are not in a leadership position,” she added.

Whitney Bososki, who oversees the program locally as MTU’s health and wellness coordinator, said LeaderShape is in its 17th year at Tech. She said various departments at the school donate money to fund the Institute or sponsor individual students, and the students themselves pay $100.

Moving the Institute off campus to the forestry center was an intentional choice, she noted.

“We want to take the students out of their environment,” Boroski said, to help them focus completely and open their minds beyond the limitations they may see in their daily lives.

The professional LeaderShape facilitator in charge of the program is Daniel Gaken, director of the Leadership Institute at Central Michigan University.

He attended an institute as a college freshman several years ago, and the experience inspired his career as a leadership professional.

“I quickly learned that not only could I create change in the world, that developing the capacity to lead in others was incredibly rewarding,” he wrote in an email, noting that this week’s institute was his 25th, in a variety of roles.

He wrote that a primary goal of LeaderShape is helping students learn to “lead with integrity” – a phrase the nonprofit has trademarked. But on top of giving students a clearer view of their own values, “we then provide them a toolset that allows them to live in congruence with those values,” he added.

Camron Smith, a third-year electrical engineering major from Skandia, is one of the students attending the institute for the first time. He’s served in leadership positions in Tech’s residence halls, in Greek life and elsewhere. He wrote that LeaderShape has given him tools for turning the world he can envision into reality.

“Learning about different personality types has allowed me to gather my strengths as a leader and communicate better with those that have different leadership styles,” he wrote. “We have learned how to grow our relationships with individuals into a plan to achieve our goal.”

Second-year electrical and mechanical engineering major Sam Baxendale returned to the LeaderShape Institute as a student leader after attending last year. He brought a powerful message for the first-time attendees.

“It is not ‘over’ when you leave,” he wrote in an email. “It continues when you take what you have learned here and use it.”