Above: Photo via viu.ca

By contributor Krista Meckelborg

On October 28 and 29, 113 students and community members gathered at the annual Vancouver Island Leadership Conference (VILC) as part of their own journeys toward becoming the next leaders of Vancouver Island and the world. Through a series of workshops and keynote speeches at the Nanaimo Conference Centre, these young adults were given tools and inspiration to help guide their leadership development.

Highlights of the event included an inspirational speech by leadership educator, Drew Dudley, a number of workshops led by success coach, Lisa Michaud, the appearance of Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, the story of the man who worked 52 jobs, Sean Aiken, a masquerade gala, and a number of networking opportunities with community business leaders.

Each presenter gave valuable insights on leadership and practical ways to incorporate leadership qualities into every day life.

“The experience taught me that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what matters is how you lead others and treat them according to your values,” said Brandon Brown, one of the delegates from the weekend.

I had the pleasure of attending the conference myself. I found the event to be very motivating, and by the end of the conference, I felt as though I was truly changed. Each of the speakers and workshops presented valuable ideas to ponder and challenged me in ways I never would have imagined. Many delegates described a similar feeling of having been inspired by the event.

“It really made me think about how I can learn to recognize others’ values,” said Brown.  “I feel inspired to incorporate self-reflections into my daily strategy.”

Not only was the conference highly inspirational, it was also plenty of fun. The evening events were a great opportunity for the delegates to connect with one another and have conversations with speakers and community business leaders while enjoying food and music.

“The masquerade gala was such a cool finale to the event,” said Christie Jones, another delegate. “Some of us even had the chance to eat at the same table as the conference’s speakers. The dance was a great way to let loose and have fun afterwards.”

The conference was planned and organized entirely by an executive team made up of students from Vancouver Island University. A strong vision for the conference helped guide the team towards creating a successful event.

“We wanted to inspire the leaders of tomorrow,” said Taylor Farrell, the conference Chair. “We wanted to connect them with like-minded individuals, community members, and other professionals. We also wanted to help them evolve–we wanted to see that personal growth where they want to go out into the world and make changes, and hopefully now they have a better skill set to do so.”

However, as with any inspirational event or moment, it is easy to leave feeling refreshed and energized, but to lose sight of this inspiration the following week as reality sets in again. As a reminder to everyone who attended, and as an overview of the lessons learned throughout the weekend for those who couldn’t make it, here’s a brief recap of some of the highlights.

“Define the things that define you,” said Dudley repeatedly in Friday night’s keynote speech. He spoke of the importance of taking time to reflect on the leadership qualities that are important to you. One of the greatest differentiating factors about leaders is their ability to verbalize their values and strengths. It’s easy to think of leadership values: courage, integrity, humility, kindness, respect, empathy. However, how many of us can truly define each of these words in a simple, easy-to-understand way? It’s impossible to fully embody any characteristic without a clear understanding of what each value means. In order to embrace true leadership, it is essential that desired values are verbalized in order to gain a full understanding of what each value entails.

Success coach Lisa Michaud gave workshops on networking and personal branding. She discussed how growing your network is one of the most valuable things that you can do for yourself now, regardless of your current situation. The people you build relationships with today are the ones from whom you can seek help in the future. Michaud presented the idea of networking to be as simple as having a conversation with someone new and asking questions to learn about the other person. I tested out her strategy myself, and wound up having a few great conversations that have led to new connections and opportunities.

Michaud’s second workshop focused on personal branding. Branding yourself in a positive light and creating ways to differentiate yourself from others can lead to anything from getting the job you desire to making it easier for you to ask for help from others. It starts with knowing who you are and what makes you unique, and moves towards finding a way to present this to the world in a way that helps them to understand who you are as well.

“Take every opportunity to grow,” said Aiken as he shared his story of working 52 jobs in 52 weeks. After graduating university, Aiken felt unsure of what he wanted his future to look like. Supported through donations and hosted by those he met along the way, Aiken traveled the world for an entire year, taking on a new job every week. His search for his passion was successful, as he eventually discovered a desire to share his experience as an inspirational speaker. He encouraged the audience to actively search for their passions by continually trying new things.

One of the goals of this year’s conference was to be inclusive of all universities on the Island and inclusive of many faculties. The conference had previously only targeted Vancouver Island University business students, but the executive team successfully managed to expand the 2016 VILC to include a much broader audience. Students from North Island Conference, Camosun College, and Nanaimo high schools attended the conference alongside VIU delegates.

We are the leaders of tomorrow, and any chance to grow our leadership skills should be accepted with open arms. What we allow ourselves to learn today shapes who we become tomorrow. So let’s become leaders.