The Office of Student Leadership Development hosted its second annual LEADtalk event, in which six students from the LeaderShape program shared what leadership means to them.
LeaderShape is a national non-profit that partners with Lehigh to help students explore identity development and gain inclusive leadership skills.
The six LeaderShape veterans spoke through different mediums — PowerPoints, J. Cole lyrics and slam poetry — all sharing in the belief that leadership is about serving others.
The style and name of the event was inspired by TED Talks, giving the students an opportunity to present on a topic they are passionate about. For some of the speakers, this meant expanding upon different types of leadership.
Fortunate Tshirangwana, ‘18, a student from South Africa, spoke about relational leadership, which to her means breaking down the barriers between people and making a personal effort to develop more intimate relationships with the people around her.
Tshirangwana told the story of when she found out she was invited to speak at LEADtalk. She remembered feeling nervous that she wasn’t qualified to give anyone advice on how to be a leader.
“I come from a country where the definition of leadership is Nelson Mandela,” she said.
In deciding whether she felt worthy of telling others how to lead, all it took was one friend telling her she was qualified to give her the confidence to accept the invitation.
“I realized that I’m only here today because of the impact that other people have had on my life,” Tshirangwana said.
Bruke Mammo, ’17, started his presentation with a spoken word poem about issues of race in America, and he devoted the rest of his presentation to the concept of servant leadership.
“When it comes to servant leadership, you’re not leading because of what you want to do,” Mammo said. “It’s not about moving yourself forward, it’s about wanting to bring others up with you.”
Mammo talked about his own experiences in leadership roles, such as being an orientation leader and a Gryphon. Mammo told the crowd that nothing can be achieved alone, and he is optimistic about what can be achieved when people work together.
“If everybody took one step forward, we’d run out of steps to take,” Mammo said.
Other speakers based their presentation on identifying what traits can be found in a good leader.
This was the case with Jason Sadler, ’18, who presented on what he defined as the three aspects of a great leader: passion, wisdom and service. Sadler said taking these three steps is an easy way for Lehigh students to become the kind of leaders they want to be.
“Through my experience in LeaderShape, the one thing it really taught me was that anyone can be a leader,” Sadler said.
Mikayla Cleary-Hammarstedt, ‘18, also based her presentation on what makes a good leader. To her, good leadership is about confidence, practice and being inclusive.
Cleary-Hammarstedt emphasized that a good leader will take care of his or herself and that many followers do not necessarily make good leaders. The other two speakers spoke mostly from their own experiences, using their stories to teach good leadership.
Freddy Coleman, ’17, told his story of growing up somewhat ostracized for the color of his skin and the nationality of his parents, who are Ghanaian. He grew up quiet, and after the death of his cousin decided he would spend his life being normal and keeping his head down.
Since then, he’s discovered the power of his voice.
“When you speak up, there’s a change, there’s a catastrophic change,” he said.
Since then, Coleman has been in a number of leadership roles, including class president.
Danielle Sato, ‘19, presented the qualities of a good leader she believes she gained from her upbringing in Hawaii. Sato based her presentation around the multiple meanings of the Hawaiian word, “aloha.” She said that while the word is often used as “hello” or “goodbye,” it can also represent a deep love for the people around you.
LEADtalk was organized by on-site coordinators Brandon Ling, ’17, and Julia Patterson, ’17. Ling said they wanted the event to present as much diversity as possible and reach a broad audience.
“I think the event did a really great job at making sure everyone in the room leaves feeling like they are a leader,” Patterson said, “because I really do believe that everyone is a leader and has the ability to be a great leader.”