Brought together by a shared hunger to grow as leaders, 70 members of the Yale community convened this weekend to study the essence of leadership.
Held at The Graduate Club, the eighth STAY/AYA Leadership Forum included notable alumni speakers — including a retired Army General and a Business Times “40 under 40” award winner — who shared their personal leadership lessons with the participants. Over the weekend, the forum’s participants worked in small groups to discuss leadership challenges they faced in their organizations, received advice on potential solutions and formulated strategies to implement these ideas.
“We are tapping into a really deep vein of hunger for leadership training on campus,” said Stephen Blum, senior director at AYA and the forum’s facilitator.
Students recognize these opportunities were challenging to come by outside of Yale, and the forum was founded in 2012 to meet this need, he added.
Unlike other leadership forums, the conference brought together undergraduates, graduates and alumni. Promoting interaction between the three groups brought increased breadth and depth of experience to the table, said Yonghyun Kwon ’17, projects director at STAY and forum chairman. Younger participants could gain insight from those with more experience while older participants benefit from the fresh perspective their younger counterparts offer, Kwon explained.
The team also has worked hard to bring in dynamic speakers from diverse backgrounds, including School of Management professor Thomas Kolditz and Andrew Klaber ’04, who founded Even Ground, an international non-profit that provides children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS with academic scholarships, basic health care and nutrition in South Africa and Uganda. The forum’s speakers candidly discussed personal insecurities and failures — innumerable rejections, multi-million dollar loses and close shaves with bankruptcy — as they sought to distill lessons for successful leadership.
Participants interviewed said they were impressed by the quality of the speakers and enjoyed the opportunity to explore the challenges of leadership with a diverse range of Yalies.
“This is exactly what I hoped it would be,” said Pablo Barrera GRD ’20. “There aren’t many opportunities to think about leadership [in graduate school], and this was a great opportunity to do that and to get to know people.”
Orlando Yarborough SOM ’10 said there is such a rich knowledge and source of leadership at Yale. This conference, he said, brings participants with diverse leadership experiences together.
Over the course of the two-day forum, there were many discussions about what leadership styles are best for different contexts, how leaders differ from managers and why motivations closely influence effective leadership.
The Leadership Forum seeks to ensure the continued leadership development of participants beyond the two days, Blum said.
Organizers said they are planning to hold follow-up forums for participants to continue the conversation, said Stephanie Siow ’17, director of public events at the Leadership Institute, which co-sponsored the forum.
Blum added that the Leadership Forum has yielded a “gold mine” of information – in their applications. The organizers have received over 1,000 responses cumulatively for the eight forums. In the applications, students and alumni described leadership challenges that they have faced and discussed why they care about leadership.
The organizers added that they hope to produce a report on the state of leadership at Yale. Blum said he believes that the amount of data organizers have gathered may even provide insights on leadership trends across years or within particular groups.
The STAY/AYA leadership forum takes place biannually and will next be held in Spring 2015.