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Wanted: leaders with heart

What does it take to be a leader who champions positive change? Deakin Business and Law students Reid Hadaway and Joshua Ball attend the 2019 University Scholars Leadership Symposium

Whether it’s a tiny start-up or a global titan, every organisation – and every community – relies on the skills and strengths of its leaders.

But what does leadership look like in a world that faces sustainable development challenges and humanitarian uncertainty?

Faculty of Business and Law students Reid Hadaway and Joshua Ball recently attended the 2019 University Scholars Leadership Symposium (USLS) where they were joined by more 1000 students from 500 universities across the world to explore the challenges of 21st century leadership.

Held this year in Malaysia, the USLS is an annual, week-long event that was launched in 2010 by Humanitarian Affairs – an international organisation dedicated to empowering 18-30 year olds who are passionate about positive social change. 

Reid is a Bachelor of Laws (Hons)/Bachelor of Commerce student and also president of the Deakin Law Students’ Society Geelong (DLSS) while Josh is undertaking a combined Bachelor of International Studies/Bachelor of Commerce and is president of the Deakin Commerce Students’ Society (DCSS).

‘Each day we would hear from speakers on a variety of topics … from the characteristics of leadership to the story of a person who, from since the age of seven, had campaigned for clean drinking water in Africa,’ says Reid.

‘One of the key takeaways for me was the capacity of young leaders to pursue their goals and try to change the world. I was impressed by the people I met who are all leaders in their communities and working to alleviate a range of challenging issues.’

Reid and Josh also spent a planned activities day with young Malaysian-based refugees and both agree this was one of the week’s highlights.

‘It is quite easy to emotionally disconnect and distance yourself from individuals who are struggling across the globe when you see it only through media such as the television or radio. But connecting with people and learning about their journeys is a humbling experience as many instill their trust in us to understand their hardships,’ says Josh.

Encouraged by the number of young Australians attending the 2019 USLS, Reid says he believes it demonstrates not only Australia’s leadership potential, but the capacity of the upcoming generation to enact future change.

‘It was also an opportunity to learn about our capacity for servant leadership … a concept that’s always driven me as I believe serving others is a paramount duty,’ he adds.

Servant leadership is a notion that also resonates with Josh who says USLS was an opportunity to learn about leadership with empathy.

‘It’s not only about learning to listen to someone’s pain and grievances but attempting to understand it and feel what they are enduring. As leaders, the ability to empathise is crucial as it is one of the first steps to understanding an issue and resolving it. A level of emotional intelligence is required to act as a leader who is loved and respected by their peers,’ he says.

Josh adds that the line-up of speakers, all who have made significant contributions to their community in the face of challenge, provided the delegates with both inspiration and motivation.

‘These speakers included Geraldine Cox, Hillary Yip, Sam Cawthorn, and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad,’ he says.

‘Sam Cawthorn’s keynote address particularly resonated with me as he described the concept of “bouncing forward” which is recovering from great challenge or pain while yielding positivity and growth from the experience … it’s a concept that’s allowed me to further perceive opportunity in the face of adversity and challenge … As adults, it’s crucial that we deal with negativity in our life in a constructive manner, and learn to “bounce forward” with a positive attitude.’

For both Josh and Reid, one of the key take-home messages around leadership l was the importance of motivation and perseverance.

‘Despite obstacles, we should always display the motivation to not only keep going but to achieve something more,’ says Josh.

‘Motivation should also be focused on helping others grow. As leaders, we should act as role models and, to some extent, a mentor. Effective leaders assist in the growth of their peers. Peer improvement leads to overall team improvement and we should always ensure that we look out for one another as an effective team. We learnt that there is always an opportunity to grow and become a better leader.’