Saturday, 28 January 2012

at The Emerging Global Leaders Program

Your generation might be the last.’ A single opening-keynote sentence that effectively floored a room full with 50 of York University’s top student leaders of which I had the privilege to be a part of. This became one of my first impressions of EGLP, a weekend conference retreat designed to explore key concepts and challenges of leadership in Canadian and international contexts., hosted by York International.  And it was a sobering thought to say the least.

These first few words hit me at 8am last Saturday after taking a bus into King City, Ontario to attend the conference.  Dr. Walter Perchal, Special Advisor and ex Commanding Officer of The Royal Regiment of Canada and the Canadian Army, stood at the front of the conference centre meeting room after calmly stating the aforementioned line. He came with a simple but tough message for us: the next generation of young leaders will face some of the largest and most complicated challenges the world has ever seen.

Speaking at the World Bank scenario led by Mr. Nigmendra Narain
Dr. Perchal both scared the crap out of me and inspired me beyond comprehension. What I envisioned as a fluffy combination of workshops that weekend actually became a test of my ability to connect, respond and coordinate with the most assertive and motivated agents of change. I found myself questioning my own loyalties, ideas and beliefs while being exposed to an intense diversity of backgrounds (I was one of three white males attending!). To my amazement, this clash of cultures, morals and histories consequently stripped away the superficial aspects of attending a ‘leadership conference’ and made my experience honest and real. Having a discussion with a 20 year old who recently escaped civil war in a country halfway across the world puts things into perspective like that.  

Guest speaker Ms. Janet Keeping

This busted another prejudice I was carrying with me to EGLP. Just because you share certain skills and aspects with someone else such as youth and ability to lead does NOT mean you share opinions. Finding out that the friend I made on the bus doesn’t believe in universal health care makes for an interesting conversation. Now multiply that by 50 shark-like personalities and throw them all in the same room, close the doors and watch the chaos ensue. It became immediately important that I find a way to bridge the gap between my own core values and the opposition of others, or else common ground was a place in a very far away land.

Pushing myself to exist outside of my comfort zone was what made EGLP worthwhile, and that would not have happened without the support of delegates, organizers and facilitators. Even though some sessions were admittingly out of hand, it was specifically our diversity and differences which connected us and made us stronger. At the end of everything, it is our VISION to DREAM and to not let others stop us that counts and we’re not going to accomplish this if we aren’t willing to put in the effort. Or, in the wise words of Dr. Perchel,  ‘if you want to be a leader, you have to get off of your ass.’

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