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19 Leadership Lessons Learned through a Youth-led Organisation

Christina Buiza, a student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, spent four years in AIESEC- taking roles in the corporate-facing side of AIESEC, and multiple leadership experiences. A few years later, she reflected on her experiences and realised she learned two very important leadership lessons:

1. Don’t let your fears and self-doubt get in the way of doing amazing work.
2. You can’t lead anyone if you can’t lead yourself first. Listen to yourself and pay attention to your needs first.

If you are interested in hearing more about Christina’s leadership journey, check out her blog here.

She reached out to her network across Canada to hear about her colleagues’ most important leadership lessons they wanted to share with the world. With her permission, we’ve reposted these great lessons here.

“As a student leader who led a chapter of the world’s largest, student-run organisation, what is the single leadership lesson you can share with other student leaders and entrepreneurs?”

 

1. Be adaptable

“A great leader needs to be adaptable.  The biggest mistake you can make is to be unwilling to change course, or start over when something is not going your way.  That willingness to forge past mistakes and turn learnings into progress is what leads to eventual success”

Peter Gallivan, Global Vice President of Marketing of AIESEC International in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2012)

 


2. Go beyond the job description

“A great leader is someone who recognizes that a team member’s responsibilities aren’t determined by his job description but by his passion.”

Sam Turner, President of AIESEC Edmonton in the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada (2012)

 

 


3. Learn to accept both failure and success

“Every step you take in life defines who you are as a person. Learn from your mistakes and don’t be afraid of failure because each experience teaches you the important lessons to succeed in life.

You should learn to accept both failure and success, and view each obstacle as a stepping stone to the latter. Don’t be disappointed by what you couldn’t accomplish; move on to the next thing you’re passionate about and make the most out of it. Do what you love and challenge yourself.”

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” -Charles Swindoll

Munessa Beehuspoteea, President of AIESEC Ryerson in Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada (2012)


4. Take the first step

“Being a leader can be daunting, but it is because you chose to be a leader that will inspire others to do the same. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and take that first step.”

Alex Shum, President of AIESEC York at York University in Toronto, Canada (2012)

 

 


5. Build a strong team around you

“Amongst the many things I learned during my one-year term as President of AIESEC Windsor, I found that building up a strong core executive team was essential in the positive progression of the chapter as a whole. A hard-working and dedicated executive team resulted in motivated and loyal members who collectively, contributed to the overall development of the local chapter.”

Kristie Luk, President of AIESEC Windsor at Windsor University in Windsor, Canada


6. Stop trying to please everyone

“Authenticity is more important than anything when it comes to leadership. The more you worry about who you are, and about being somebody who pleases everyone, the less you are able to effectively do what is needed.”

Kevin Cornwell, President of AIESEC in Canada (2013)

 

 


7. Believe in your abilities

“If I could share one thing from my experience as a student leader in AIESEC, I would tell other students to believe in their current abilities to do great things.  I work for a fortune 100 company in the US now and many of the practices we had in place as an organization were on par with those my company incorporates into their management practices.  Students can influence other students, businesses, and the community as a whole in great ways simply by taking the initiative and having a purpose behind what they do.”

David Palkovitz, President of AIESEC McGill at McGill University in Montreal, Canada (2012)

8. Learn to accept yourself before leading others

“Leadership is a deeply emotional journey of self discovery and humility. Only when we are ready to accept who we are, will we be ready to inspire and connect those who are around us.  Leadership is not so much about influencing as much as it is of allowing our quest for purpose to transform ourselves and transform others.  Leadership is the constant quest to understand what drives us and what drives others.”

Franklin Morales, Global Sales and Marketing Manager of AIESEC International in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2010)


9. Consistently plan and think about your vision

“Leadership is about consistently thinking into the future and guiding activities and people towards this vision. It’s also about seeing what people could become and helping them become their best selves.”

Derek Vollebregt, Global Business Development Manager of AIESEC International in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2013)

 


10. Share your vision with others

“Your colleagues need to fully understand your vision if you expect them to give the most of themselves. I firmly believe that a shared vision and deep personal relationships are the strongest incentives to motivate people.”

Samuel Marion, President of AIESEC HEC at HEC Montreal (Université de Montréal) in Montreal, Canada  (2012)

 

11. Pick and choose the innovations that will make most use of your time

“Your most precious resource is time; you will never recover the time you spend nor the time you waste.  When you take on a leadership role, the opportunity cost of that time is critical to your next steps as an individual and your organization as an ongoing entity. I chose to invest 730 days as president of our committee towards intensive personal development, introducing innovation into each project I could take part of, and meaningfully engaging new members into the vision of our organization.  When I finished my terms, I went on to pursue a new venture that demanded the skills I had fostered, and left the organization with a leadership pipeline and a benchmark of success.  As for innovations, many died and some thrived.”

Carson Kolberg, President of AIESEC Laurier at Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada (2011-12)


12. Remind yourself of the impact of your work

“One of the greatest fruits of your labour as a leader is seeing the endless hours, stress, frustration, and tears make an impact – even if it’s on one single individual. Developing another person to be a better leader, a better human being, is worth all the trouble.”

Jason Yung, National Vice-President of Business Development at AIESEC in Cambodia  (2013)

 


13. Be vulnerable and honest

“As leaders, we often try and strive to seem perfect and invulnerable. I realized the importance of vulnerability and honesty, and the role it plays in leadership, in order to build team foundations and a healthy environment for a team to foster and work together.”

Seulmi ‘Sue’ Ahn’, National Vice-President of Talent Management at AIESEC in Canada (2013)

 


14. Be open to change

“Don’t try to confine yourself to one idea of what it means to be a leader just because you read it from some ‘Leadership for Dummies’ book or heard about one that worked for someone else. If I’ve learned anything in AIESEC, it’s that your leadership style should develop as you grow, and should adapt to reflect what works best for your team to succeed!”

Kai Wong, President of AIESEC Queens at Queens University in Kingston, Canada (2012)


15. Go outside of your comfort zone

“One of the most important lessons I learned from my time at AIESEC is to always strive to work outside of my comfort zone. Whenever I took on a task that was outside my comfort zone, I always learned immensely more that if it was a task I had a high level of comfort with. Do not be afraid to fail and put yourself out there because outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens.”

Rustam Kasimov, President of AIESEC McMaster at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada  (2012)

16. Be humble

“My single most important leadership lesson is that a leader needs to be absolutely selfless and humble. Therefore, as a leader, your single most important goal should be to create opportunities and inspire individuals to be great and unique leaders better than yourself.”

Constance Wong, President of AIESEC Ottawa at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Canada  (2012)

 


17. Lead by example

“The best lesson that I have learned as a leader was to pull you team instead of pushing it to get the work done. If you want your sales representative to go on sales call, don’t just put pressure on him to do it, go on sales call with him. LEAD BY EXAMPLE”

Simon Lemieux, President of AIESEC Sherbrooke at Universite de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Canada (2012)

 

18. You can’t do everything alone.

My biggest lessons from my experience can be resume by that quote:”Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” from Helen Keller.

Imagine that you are the coach of a rowing team and you are trying to assemble the best team. You hire the world’s best paddler which will be a great addition to the team. But if the other team members can’t keep up with his pace, your team won’t be able to perform at his full potential. To adjust the situation you will work on their communication, their rate, position in the boat, you will ask them to help each other. Perhaps the best paddler is not the best communicator, someone else might be best to set the pace.

Different set of skills of each member of the team allows them to complement each other and also allow them to learn new skills. Skills that are not related to the work itself can also benefit the team. For example, a person in charge of the web site and who knows the best restaurants in the city can be responsible for the social event, an important factor in the success of the team.”

Vladmir Vallès, President of AIESEC UQAM at Université du Québec à Montréal in Montreal, Canada (2011-12)


19. Celebrate small success

“Don’t sweat the little things and lose sight of the big picture.  Stay passionate and celebrate even the small successes.”

Julie Park, President of AIESEC Calgary at University of Calgary in Calgary, Canada (2012)

 

 

What do you think about these lessons?

Do you agree?

Do you have your own lesson to share?

Attending International Congress in Egypt – A young leader’s perspective

As we have indicated in our first blog post, this past August AIESEC hosted International Congress – a conference of 800 youth delegates – in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Hosting such a large event in a country going through an intense political situation proved to be challenging but rewarding for the organisation, giving us a renewed sense of purpose.

The Local Committee President of AIESEC Michigan, Domenic Smith, was lucky enough to attend International Congress in Egypt in August. He was able to share his experience on the AIESEC Unites States Alumni Association blog this week. Here are some of his thoughts:

“Flying into Cairo for AIESEC’s 65th International Congress is an experience that I will never forget. I did not go to the pyramids and I did not get to see the cradle of society like many who traveled to Egypt before me. Instead, I witnessed something far more profound.

I saw a country that was truly in chaos, a country that was starving for new leadership. AIESEC’s presence of over 800 delegates from 124 countries at IC, at such a volatile time in Egypt’s history, showed me the true passion and dedication that this organization and its members have toward developing globally minded leaders to try and make the world a better place. AIESEC did not give up on Egypt and cancel the conference, which would have been very easy to do. We did not boycott the conference because it endangered us or because our governments warned against it. Instead, as an international plenary, we demonstrated the support that we have for AIESEC Egypt and the belief that we, the AIESEC community, have that one day the members of AIESEC Egypt will become the leaders that their country needs to restore peace and prosperity.

The world came together at IC for the 65th time to show that we believe in the impact that young people can have on creating a brighter and more accepting future. Experiencing 124 countries, united by a mission, working together to fulfill AIESEC’s 2015 goals was an incredibly powerful experience. When do you ever have the chance to see 124 countries work together towards one common goal?”

To read more about Domenic’s experience, check out the rest of the post here.  

Did you attend International Congress 2013 in Egypt? What was your experience like?

Being in Egypt through the Crisis: A Lesson in Leadership for a Youth Organisation

Why a youth-led organisation brought 800 young people to Egypt in the midst of its worst political turmoil since the Revolution of 2011.

It started with a dream. The global team of AIESEC had spent weeks discussing the issues the world is facing today, and the type of leadership that the world needs to overcome them. We wanted to make sure our organisation was contributing to changing the world through changing its leadership. The best way to do this was to have the world in one room – young leaders from 124 countries in one place to engage, discuss, connect and create the movement they would lead together.

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Over our 65 years of existence, the mission of our organisation had been tried and tested. But we were not prepared for it to be challenged to its core while we were leading it.

The location for AIESEC’s 65th International Congress had been chosen in early 2012, by our 100,000 members of students and recent graduates from across the world. Our different member countries are able to put forward bids to host the conference, and the bids are then voted upon – very similar to the Olympic Games process. The Congress was to take place in Egypt – the cradle of civilisations – and this was decided months after the Revolution of 2011 that changed the face of the country, the Middle East, and the way the rest of the World would approach change. This would be the first time that AIESEC would hold a conference of this size in the Middle East region, a concept that both inspired and excited the entire network.

The 1400 students managing AIESEC in Egypt saw this as an incredible opportunity to showcase their beautiful country and culture but more importantly to host this important conversation about young people’s role in creating a better world. They immediately got to work on organising the biggest AIESEC conference ever in the best place they could think of, Sharm el-Sheikh – the city of Peace.

Youth Leadership Provider

The demonstrations on the 30th of June in Cairo and the events that followed afterwards changed everything. The country was again in the midst of massive social and political change. Our conversation on the role of youth leadership was more relevant than ever, but our event was on the brink of cancellation. Surrounded by multi-national corporations and countless governments’ advice to enlist a travel ban on Egypt, AIESEC needed to make a decision.

Our organisation was build upon a platform of change. AIESEC came to be after the Second World War, when a group of students decided that the only way to stop history from repeating itself was to ensure cultural understanding in future generations. An internship programme was created so that young people could gain personal and professional experience while discovering a new country and culture. Fast-forward 65 years, and AIESEC is providing over 26,000 young people life changing internship experiences in 124 countries that contribute to their ability to understand the world, their own values and how to take leadership in making change.

The paradox that the crisis in Egypt caused within the organisation was simple – we could either decide to cancel the event due to the leadership crisis the country was facing and the uncertainty it brought managing a large event there or we could to commit to supporting the conversation of how to develop better leaders for Egypt and the World to avoid these situations in the future.

This decision was not an easy one. The entire leadership team of AIESEC International struggled with fully understanding the risks we were undertaking, the true nature of what was happening in Egypt, and the full effects of canceling this conference on the organisation and quite possibly the world. Our first and most important priority was the safety of every single delegate, volunteer and partner that attended our conference. While we may be the executive body of the largest youth-led organisation in the world, we were not experienced enough to make this decision alone.

We invested as much time, energy and money as it took to have the full understanding of the situation. Our President, Rolf Schmachtenberg, even flew to Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh to gain more perspective on the security issues the country was facing. We soon realised that many of the security concerns of the media and different governments were very specific to certain areas within the country, and not affecting Egypt as a whole. In particular, the location of our conference was unaffected by the situation. After gaining insight, reports and perspectives from our own trips and hired professional risk assessment specialists, we decided that with some diligent to our original plans and some extra security measures, the location of our conference was as safe for our delegates.

With all of this information and support, we decided to take a bold stand and move forward with the congress in Egypt.

While we made this decision, it did not necessarily make going to Egypt much easier for the team or our delegates. With every new event in the media came a phone call from our family and friends, worried about our safety and asking us why risk going to Egypt. Some delegates were even asked to not attend by their parents. Every concern expressed to us made us re-evaluate our decision over again in our minds.

But there is a strong reason why 800 young people made the active decision to continue on this journey to Egypt. For some of them, doubt may never have entered their mind at all and they were looking forward to the trip to Egypt all year. For others, they questioned themselves until the moment they made it home safe and sound. But for one moment, in the closing hours of the conference, every delegate knew exactly why he or she were there.

Closing Plenary 1

It was a moment where 100 Egyptian delegates and organisers were asked to stand in the center of the room with 700 of the international delegates circled around them. I was part of the international group, staring inwards at this group of Egyptians who looked exhausted after not sleeping for 10 days because they were working endlessly to organise the conference. This group did not disappoint all week, even when some of the worst events in their country’s history were taking place just a few hours away. Their commitment and purpose in hosting us in their country during this time was unwavering. We all stood in appreciation and support of this inspiring group of Egyptian youth in front of us while joining together as a global community of young people, regardless of which country we were from, political party we support or religion we practice.

As I stood on the outside looking in, I couldn’t help but feel the power that was around me.

Everyone had their own reason for being in that room, but all of our reasons were connected to our belief in AIESEC creating the leaders the world needs for a stronger future together.

Some were there because they had the courage to be bold; often mistaken in young people for naivety. The bold choice to attend International Congress came from the trust in AIESEC in Egypt and an enhanced sense of adventure that is common in AIESEC members.

Some were there because they were informed and engaged in what was happening in Egypt. If you looked beyond what the media was constantly distributing, there were a lack of travel warnings against the Red Sea Resort areas where tourism is a way of life for the citizens who live there.

Some were there because they felt a responsibility to the organisation and to represent their country in the congress.

But all of us were there because of the values we hold and the purpose we carry in bringing young people together from across the world to challenge their mindsets, make meaningful connections across cultural barriers and create smart strategies to develop many more young leaders when we return home.

The power of AIESEC as an organisation is in its ability to provide youth the opportunity to see and experience the world. Because when they are able to experience the world, they can start to understand it; and when they start to understand it, they are able to start changing it.

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Now that all 800 delegates have returned home safely, we want to be able to share our experience in Egypt with the world. International Congress 2013 in Egypt was about more than just the location it was held in. It was and has always been the place where young leaders were born, shaped and influenced. It was the place where AIESEC recommitted to delivering leadership development experiences to one million young people by 2015. International Congress was exactly where it needed to be.

We believe the solution is always better leadership and we will continue to do all we can to make sure the next generation of leaders are ready, across the world, to commit to a better future together. This is why we do what we do. This is how we will change the world. What will your impact be?