I only thought about applying to LeaderShape when the deadline was extended last semester. Even then, as I sat putting words to screen two hours before the deadline, I thought about not applying after all. During the winter break, I thought about cancelling going to LeaderShape to spend more time with family and friends. At every step in my journey towards LeaderShape, it was as if an intangible force edged me to move forward. In retrospect, I am eternally glad that I did.
I admit, I came to LeaderShape with a particular mindset. When I think of “leadership” workshops (and others too) I think about days spent in conference rooms, listening to one lecture after the next. LeaderShape turned out to be different. It was more than just a week filled with lectures - it was a week of interaction, activity and deep self-digging. I think the idea of family clusters was brilliant. People who I’d met for the first time on the bus became, by the last day, dear friends. It was nice to meet so many people, to hear their stories, aspirations, dreams, and fears. It was nice to share my own stories and my own dreams and fears. It was nice to have ears always ready to listen, and to offer mine to others. And it was nice to have an opportunity to become closer to people who all wanted to change the world for the better.
At LeaderShape, I dug deep inside of myself to try to find who I really was, and what I really wanted to do with my life, and how I wanted to change the world. I was encouraged to throw caution to the wind and think big and bold and outrageous when it came to my vision. Every single day was an inspiration in its own way. Every single video I saw made me frustrated and angry at the sad state of health affairs back home in Pakistan. Every single video I saw, and every single lecture I sat through reinvigorated my passion and my dream of changing things for the better back home, no matter the obstacles. Every single person I talked to, shared my vision with, and whose vision I heard, inspired me to work toward my vision. Every single moment at LeaderShape was like an intangible force of its own, silently encouraging me to take to the skies. Every minute of the many minutes I spent in reflection by the beach, hearing the waves kiss the shore and staring out into the vast sea ahead, was about possibility. Every minute I spent listening to and questioning the guest leader panel was an inspiration on its own. All I have just said might sound a bit cheesy, but if you’ve gone to LeaderShape, you know what I mean. If I could do this all over again, I would gladly give a kidney to do so... Well, maybe not a kidney, but you get my point.
At LeaderShape, through the team challenges and other activities, I learnt more about the value of teamwork, and exploiting the strengths of each member to make the group superior than any one individual. Through that one unforgettable frisbee game, I learnt the value of appreciating teammates contributions, and thinking about the group before I thought about myself. At LeaderShape, I thought deep about my core values, how those mattered to me, and how they fit in with my vision. I learned about the value of integrity, about standing by my values like a rock and about the value of respecting the power that I will have as a leader. At LeaderShape, I was able to make an action plan of sorts, about how I was going to walk the talk and achieve my goals en route to the future I envisioned. Not to forget the tea/coffee station, without which I could not have survived.
I write all this with my LeaderShape pebble before me on my desk, and with incredible nostalgia. I am intensely looking forward to reunions. Before LeaderShape, I had an idea about what I wanted to do with my life. It was an idea, but it was all over the place. I was like a ship wandering the seas with a faulty navigation system. LeaderShape gave me a navigation system - a solid vision statement I look forward to working towards. I dare say that only at LeaderShape could I have transcended the boundaries of disciplines and campuses to make friends I hope to stay friends with for the rest of my life. Only at LeaderShape could I have gone in knowing just a handful of people, and come out having extended my family by sixty or so.