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Making an impact through leadership

'It’s so important to try new things. You never know when a new door might open for you'

Behavioural theories suggest that leadership skills can be taught and developed over time.

Alyssa Ahmed, a third-year psychology student at the University of Guelph, puts this theory to the test as she takes part in the annual International Collegiate Leadership Competition (CLC) this month. 

The Collegiate Leadership Competition is a non-profit organization founded in 2015 which creates a digital practice field where students can apply what they learn in CLC’s global virtual competition. 

CLC makes leadership a tangible, high-impact learning experience for future leaders.

Colleges and universities in Canada and the United States each identify a coach and recruit a team of six students. Throughout the competition, each team member leads one challenge and receives extensive feedback based on their performance.

“I was asked to take part in the competition in 2018. And this is now my third year,” Ahmed says. 

“I was a little unsure because I thought, this is a competition, not a conference which is what I was used to. I though how weird for something that’s leadership based.”

What Ahmed finds through her experiences in the competition, is that each challenge offers a unique learning experience, an opportunity to grow as a leader, as a team, and as an individual. 

CLC’s curriculum explores the attributes of effective leaders, leadership/followership styles, creative problem solving, influencing others, navigating difficult conversations, conflict resolution, delegation, stressors, and effective teaming.

“We’ve done some really cool activities,” Ahmed says.

“We made a giant origami just based on a couple instructions, and we also made a Pringle Ringle. It was really hard not to eat the chips during the competition.”

Ahmed says the CLC is usually a one-day, eight-hour event. The competition was cancelled last year during the pandemic. 

“But this year, it’s different. It’s all on-line,” she said.

The CLC is designed to benefit its participants as well as their greater communities. 

Ahmed, along with her five teammates, also students at the University of Guelph, have been meeting since January, working and planning for upcoming competition challenges. 

“This year, because of the pandemic, things are scattered. It’s not just a one-day event. It actually started in February and we’ve had two challenges,” Ahmed said. 

“We are now working together for the ‘impact challenge’ which is a three-week challenge. What we have to do is make an impact either in the campus community or in the greater community.”

The team has decided to work with Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis. 

“They do such great work and being that we are a group of women, we thought what better way to support other women in the community,” Ahmed said. 

“We just met with them to see how we can help. They would like us to help with promoting their services and programs and to help educate people about violence against women. Even after the challenge, we hope to continue this partnership.”

The team started a Facebook Page and a Go Fund Me Page in support of the organization. 

“I think especially now, doing something like this, it’s so important to help others, to have a sense of community and to support them throughout the pandemic,” Ahmed said. 

Growing up in Cambridge, Ahmed was involved in leadership activities ever since elementary school. 

“It’s just something I’ve always been interested in,” she says. 

Today, Ahmed, is considering her career options for the future. 

“At the University of Guelph, I’m also part of an initiative called ‘Campus Friends’. I teach French to people with developmental disabilities.  Now, I’m thinking about teaching. It’s been so rewarding. It’s a great combination of things. I love teaching and French,” Ahmed said.

“It’s so important to try new things. You never know when a new door might open for you.”

No matter what her future brings, Ahmed has a passion to help others. 

“With these experiences, teaching French and working with the Crisis Centre, I’ve learned that you should not assume what others need. Find out what their actual needs are. We need to be more understanding and offer help in ways that will benefit them,” Ahmed said. 

The final CLC challenge will be a ‘Global Competition’ in April and a winning team will be announced. 

But winning isn’t the ultimate goal for Ahmed.

“I encourage anyone to take part in the competition. They will get something out of it, either a new friendship, or a new experience. And to be able to learn and grow, it really is one of the most unique experiences,” Ahmed said. 

“With each competition, I find I continue to grow and learn. I’ve met new people and it’s given me new perspectives. I can grow my own leadership skills and help make an impact, no matter how small.”

Find more information about the Collegiate Leadership Competition here.