Brock and Niagara College team up to hold leadership summit

On Saturday, Jan. 9, Brock and Niagara College teamed up to hold the first ever Niagara Region Student Leadership Summit, where leaders inside and outside the business world worked on their growth and development.

The event had its origins as the Brock Residence Leadership Conference, which started in 2011. This event then left the Department of Residences, as the school re-developed it into the Brock Student Leadership Summit. This year, it has been expanded further to serve young professionals throughout the whole region as the Niagara Region Student Leadership Conference.

The event was held at Brock University and featured a variety of presentation options for those attending. The theme was, “Exploring Leadership Dimensions” and the conference intended to focus on developing a more complex understanding of leadership that looks at grey areas and diversity in leadership issues.

Delegates in the Decew Cafeteria / Layton Risto

Delegates in the Decew Cafeteria / Layton Risto

According to the Summit’s official description, “just as your personality cannot be categorized into one or two groups, leadership styles are not restricted to black and white categories. Leadership dimensions explores the [grey] area and celebrates the diversity of leadership styles and experiences.”

The day began with a keynote speech by Jason Maraschiellom, followed by two “choice sessions,” in which all participants got the opportunity to choose two out of 13 possible hour-long sessions to attend before lunch.

These sessions were run by both students and professionals from Brock and Niagara College, and focused on developing understandings of leadership that fell into the area of “dimensions.” Since participants had the ability to choose sessions in the morning, they were able to attend the presentations that were most relevant to their needs. This need for delegates to pursue what matters to them was reflected in the content of Brock student Jake Hunter’s presentation, “Leaders Can Have Fun Too,” where he talked about the need to present on things that matter to you.

“Once you put passion into something, the energy, emotion, and enjoyment from your audience will come through naturally,” said Hunter. “If you don’t care about what you’re doing, you can’t engage an audience. You need to find something you’re passionate about, and your emotions will translate to the audience.”

The morning part of the Summit had a lot of variety; presentations ranged from those catered to a business audience to ones that were designed for delegates with more diverse interests. For example, the morning sessions included a session on Guerrilla Marketing and promotions, which appealed specifically to business and marketing students, while simultaneously offering an alternative session on stress management, which appealed more to a general audience.

After the choice sessions and lunch, the afternoon portion of the day involved no choice or flexibility. From 1:00 p.m. to the end of the Leadership Summit at 4:00 p.m., delegates were all required to attend the same sessions. Some of these sessions, including a mandatory hour-long networking session in the afternoon (which contained a lengthy presentation on how to make a professional, businesslike Linkedin account), were specifically designed with a businessperson and business student audience in mind and demonstrated the general focus of the summit on business leadership. Because all delegates were required to follow the same afternoon schedules, people with more diverse interests outside of a conventional business focus were unable to attend sessions that were particularly relevant to them, and instead had to participate in sessions that they may not have found useful.

The Summit’s “Graffiti Wall” / Layton Risto

The Summit’s “Graffiti Wall” / Layton Risto

The afternoon started with four “mini sessions” with roundtable discussions in between. One of the more well-received of these sessions was a presentation by Allison Ives on Lateral Leading. Lateral Leading is based on the idea that a supervisor, manager, or any person in a leadership role can benefit from both humility and trust by viewing themselves as equals who are working together with their teams, rather than being above or in charge of the team.

“Companies are increasingly moving towards a system where employers and supervisors are working together and alongside each other instead of in a traditional hierarchy,” said Ives. “I want you to prove to your team why they should respect you; show them the value and earn their trust and respect; if they can trust you, you can get so much more done as a leader. Collaborate and don’t dominate. The key is letting go of that control and having faith in your team. It’s all about rising together and working together; you have this incredible position, as their equal, and it gives you incredible insight.”

After the mini-sessions, delegates participated in a series of initiative games run by Brock’s Foundations in Leadership program. These games involved traditional team building exercises such as a “protect the egg from breaking” activity and an activity where participants had to choose what they would bring with them to try and escape a desert island. Once again, there was no option to customize schedules; everyone attending the summit was required to participate in the same four activities with pre-selected teams.

The session then ended with the presenters encouraging students to consider Foundations in Leadership, emphasizing that the desired learning outcomes of these activities (“thinking outside the box,” group problem solving, communicating across boundaries, etc.) were the same as the skills taught by the Foundations workshops.

Delegates then participated in the aforementioned networking session. The session started with a presentation about how to network, and how to create a LinkedIn account. This presentation also included a video clip from the TLC show “Dance Moms” in an attempt to use Abby Lee Miller’s first impressions of children as an example of how important first impressions are. In a networking-themed activity, participants were then paired off with people they didn’t know around the room, given time to get to know their partners, and then played a game in the style of the “Newlywed Game” to see how accurate their first impressions were.

The summit saw a large number of attendees from both Brock and Niagara College, as well as over 20 speakers and presenters. As the first time that this conference has been expanded outside of Brock and into the greater regional community, the event was able to reach out to a larger audience.

As the summit has been an annual event for the past several years, despite existing in several different forms, it is likely to continue in the future. Registration this year cost $20, which included lunch and some refreshments, and was open to any interested students. Students were also welcome to submit proposals to present, and many of the presentations that ended up being given at the Summit were led by students.

For more information about this or future leadership conferences, Student Life and Community Experience can be reached at studentlife@brocku.ca, or at Brock extension 6321.

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