Last week, I attended the Leadership in Action course co-organised by UCL, LSE, and SOAS. It was a very intensive three-day course, leaving me exhausted at the end of each day, and totally drained at the end of the course. The organisers call it an “experiential leadership programme.” All 36 participants, who were shortlisted from a pool of early career researchers from UCL, LSE, and SOAS, were given many opportunities to experience leading and being led.
On the first morning, Luke Freeman, the course director, held up a 10 pound note, saying that it is an opportunity, and anyone can take it, but there is only a limited time to do so, and the time will run out very soon. I was sitting at the back of the classroom, furthest away from Luke, and there were rows of people before me. For a split second, I was envying the people sitting right in front of Luke – they didn’t even need to stand up to take the £10 from him, but they were just sitting there. I can see that most of us wanted to take it, but for some reason didn’t, how frustrating! Then I thought to myself, I want the £10 and I am going to go get it. I felt the power of the crowd and my worries about my distance to Luke holding me back, but I steeled my mind and focused on the goal. I stood up, made my way through the rows of people, and claimed my prize. As I was doing that, I felt myself break free from the invisible rule of conforming, and I was just me, focusing on my goal and nothing else. It felt very nice – I felt that people may think I am weird but it is OK. The task wasn’t difficult, but people were holding themselves back. Luke had a lesson for us. Opportunities are everywhere. If we see an opportunity, we should never be afraid to grab them and make the most out of them.
As I was the only one who grabbed the opportunity, I was much talked about after that. Several people came to congratulate me for my “bravery”. They also tried to explain to me why they didn’t stand up soon enough. “I was sitting too far back,” many said. I thought to myself, “so was I…” Another one said, “I was going to get it, but I wasn’t sure if I should, since I am one of the tutors of the course.” I think self-doubt is one’s worst enemy, and it is kind of cool to break free from the crowd.