On November 4th, the Leadership Institute along with other leaders from Central Michigan University got on a coach bus and headed North. The Destination? The Great Wolf Lodge of Traverse City. The purpose? To branch out at Connections Leadership Conference. The bus ride was a great experience! I was able to network with some people I have not met before and connected with many people before the conference even began. I have been to many leadership conferences in the past, but many upperclassmen have told me that this was their favorite out of them all, which made me very hype. Upon arrival at the Great Wolf Lodge, we were greeted off the bus by Dan Gaken, the Director of the Leadership Institute, along with many other staff members of the Leadership Institute. We headed up to our room, where we met our roommates for the evening. We immediately called the beds and made sure nobody else took the beds, because guys are territorial and thats what they do. Upon returning from the rooms, we headed down to the lobby where Dan Gaken opened the conference for the weekend. Dan gave his traditional “Leader of Today” speech which fired up the entire crowd. We were informed that the weekend would be divided up into four sessions along with two institute sessions. I knew that the weekend was going to be amazing!
For my institute sessions, we opened with communities within our school and how we will reach out to our community to access our full potential.We learned how we must interact as a community along with behaviors our community should practice, along with behaviors we should avoid as a community. The institute sessions allowed us to work within our own community of LAS along with students who were at the conference from other leadership areas as well. The institute sessions let each individual student branch out from their set groups and interact with all of the other groups to learn new ideas and leadership strategies to bring back to their original groups.
My first session was with Erin Smith Gaken. She described the 12 excuses people make for making unethical decisions. Her presentation was completely spot on. Even though I try to ensure I am the best version of myself each day, I have participated in some of these 12 excuses. The one that stuck out to me most was “ethics is a luxury and i can’t afford it.” Often college students use this one the most. Since we are all poor in college, sometimes we make decisions that don’t necessarily reflect our character, but reflect the situation that we are in as people.
My second session was with Josh Lee. Josh’s presentation focussed on building teams and branding a business or idea. He explained in his presentation how many successful firms advertise with emotional claims. Josh explained the importance of advertising and how important it is to be able to pitch a brand in 30 seconds. We formed teams and pitched our ideas of how our organization would be successful, we used interpersonal communication skills to build our thoughts. Josh Lee explained the importance of making a strong team that embraces the values of all of the members.
My third session was with Brooke Helm, director of the College of Science and Engineering residential college. Her presentation was based around ensuring good communication with others, and how important it is to realize that it is okay to be a follower sometime. Brooke showed a video that allowed her audience to realize when it is time to be a follower. After some time of discussion, all of us in the room were comfortable with being the first follower if we ever needed to.
My last session was with a couple from Central Michigan University. They focussed on setting goals and reaching your goals. It was very important to set goals that were SMART- specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time sensitive. We learned that the first step to achieving a goal is writing it down, because until that moment, it is only a thought. When you put it down on paper, it is a goal.
Now what?: After the Connections Conference, I have learned many new aspects in Leadership. Being newly elected to my fraternity executive board, I will take some of the goal setting aspects and interpersonal communication back to my fraternity. Communication is very important in everyday life and is also with my fraternity. Being an emotional leader is also very important. As a leader, it is necessary to make emotional connections with your followers rather than just have them be your followers. I will be able to incorporate all of these skills in my daily leadership actions. I now know the stressed importance of communication, reliability, and emotional connections when it comes to leading a group of people.