LeaderShape: Reflections from Q19 Attendees

Article by: Aditya Sridhar (Q19) and Shirley Han (Q19)

Aditya Sridhar (left) and Shirley Han enjoy their time in Lake Tahoe while attending LeaderShape

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” – Dr. Samuel Johnson, writer, lexicographer


We hope you enjoyed your summer! This is Aditya Sridhar, Engineering Representative of QSO, and Shirley Han, of the QUEST Recruiting Team, and this summer we were sponsored by QUEST to attend the LeaderShape Institute in Tahoe City, California. LeaderShape is a six day intensive leadership training program focused on community building, personal discovery, vision development, and leading with integrity. A total of approximately 60 student leaders from across the country participated in our session. From this amazing experience we were able to explore the Lake Tahoe area, meet new people, and make lasting connections with the participants and staff. LeaderShape Institute follows its own comprehensive curriculum which consists of lesson plans, activities, and discussions, which ultimately leads to creating our own “Breakthrough Blueprint”, or a commitment to action after attending the session. Here is a short summary of our experiences throughout the week and some key takeaways we would like to share with everyone in QUEST.

The first two days at LeaderShape were primarily focused on self-examination and how that can be used to better relate with other people in order to be a more effective leader. Thus, we were expected to be vulnerable and “go against the grain” for the rest of the week so that we could improve and grow as leaders. One of the activities included each of us sharing a personal story to a group of 10 “family cluster” members. This process helped us examine our own personal values and allowed us to easily find commonalities and differences with the other members, thus helping build a closer knit community. At the end of this deep and heavy session filled with a lot of emotions, we were suggested to reflect on what we had just experienced. Additionally, we were expected to keep all our judgments and preconceived notions about ourselves and others aside for the upcoming week, as that may hinder our quest to become better leaders. At another point in Day Two, we were asked to examine ourselves in the group setting and come up with something that we would like to do differently. Each of us had to choose something that would be outside our comfort-zone and that our family cluster could hold us accountable for during the rest of the week. This taught us the importance of always recognizing what we are comfortable with, and knowing that we learn most by putting ourselves in situations that we are challenged in.

Once we recognized the diversity of the group we would be working with, we needed to learn more about everyone’s personalities as leaders. We were put in several activities throughout the outdoor challenge course to get a better sense of how we fit in and what we can do to make the team better. In addition, we were then asked to complete the DiSC© assessment in order to figure out exactly what type of leaders we are in a particular setting. From this assessment we also realized that each of us have different qualities and that we may need to change how we act depending on who was in our group and what we would like to accomplish. Most importantly, we learned that as leaders we need to be able to actively listen and empathize with everyone in order to make everyone feel a part of the group. One of the most interesting sessions was a discussion with our family cluster where we were asked to describe times when we had knowingly discriminated against a group of individuals or saw something similar and decided not to take action. Everyone seemed to have times when they have felt a prejudice toward a group of people or have had thoughts that did not necessarily seem very inclusive. These were hard things to share, but at the same time it helped us realize that even the people with the best intent may not always be doing the right thing. With all this in mind, we were expected to see the humanity in one another in order to help us lead others better by empathizing, listening, and challenging each others’ views of the world.

After learning more about ourselves and how to lead others, we focused on creating visions that we were personally passionate about. LeaderShape really encouraged “the world of possibility”, thus, we further developed our individual visions by breaking down our visions to determine the root cause for why we were so passionate about our causes. Additionally, we were able to “showcase” our visions to the other participants and staff. It was an amazing and inspiring experience to see the diverse range and scope of all the participants’ visions. Aditya’s vision was focused on promoting sustainability and clean energy while Shirley’s vision was directed towards improving childhood literacy rates globally LeaderShape also taught us how to “bring our visions to reality” by helping us determine our goals and also how to share our visions with others. In QUEST, we share and learn about people changing the world by doing great things (evidenced by the nonstop posts in the QUEST Facebook group). Even though LeaderShape encourages leaders to share their visions of the world, it emphasizes the importance of inspiring others to join in helping your vision become a reality. LeaderShape promotes that we can change the world as long as we commit to our causes and encourage others to do the same.

We ended the week learning about the significance of leading with integrity. Although the world needs leaders, more importantly, we need ethical leaders. Thus, we learned about ethics and determined our individual core values. Additionally, we were put into hypothetical situations in which our personal ethics were challenged and learned tips of how to deal with difficult ethical dilemmas. In a perfect world, all leaders would lead with integrity. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people are willing to compromise ethics in order gain an unfair advantage over others (like those involved in Enron, Worldcomm, Tyco etc.). Thus, as future leaders, we should all aspire to be ethical leaders and promote leading with integrity inside and outside the classroom.

As much as we want to share our LeaderShape experiences with others, ultimately the change in leadership can only happen if we use these lessons and turn them into practice. Our hope is that this article and our experiences will inspire you to be curious about LeaderShape as well as give you a sense of what constitutes being a better leader. We believe that some of the important things to take away are the ideas of active listening, empathy towards everyone, and leading with integrity. We also included a quick list of actions that you all can implement in order to improve yourselves as leaders. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about LeaderShape, our experiences, or have a vision you would like you share (we would love to be active listeners!). Both of us are also open to any feedback and are willing to help anyone in becoming a better leader.

6 Key Takeaways From LeaderShape Institute
1. Tailor your leadership style based on the environment and people involved.
2. Always attempt to put yourself in situations that you are not comfortable with.
3. Be enthusiastic about your causes/visions and stay true to your values.
4. Smile and attempt to thank at least one person every day.
5. Be a good, active listener but also be aware of who you are speaking to.
6. Avoid making leadership decisions based on preconceived notions.

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