AIESEC is a global platform for youth to develop leadership by cultivating AIESEC values. It is stimulating yet challenging to nurture others and develop leadership because leadership is not just a position; it is action.
Stefan Dawson, the 2008 Branch Manager of AIESEC in Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), shared his journey to becoming a young leader of the organisation. As a leader, it is crucial to map out a vision for the team to progress. Routines like coaching the team, delegating tasks, and gathering ideas for a project may not sound as easy as they seem. He shared that his experience had shaped him into a corporate mindset to think strategically to optimise the benefits for the team. “Leadership shines when conflict happens,” he said. We should embrace the differences and stand out to lead the team forward.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” this is a statement that is used quite often whenever we speak about leadership. All the leadership positions Stefan took stirred in him a sense of maturity far beyond his age – a product of all the experiential learning in the AIESEC environment. He stepped out and started working on things that others feared speaking. Back then, his local chapter ran a project spreading awareness on HIV/AIDS. He took the initiative to step out with a sign that reads “Hug me, I have AIDS” while walking around campus. It was not an easy feat, as people tend to stigmatise patients with AIDS/HIV. Yet, Stefan led by example and took this first step courageously because he knew that as a leader, it is important to step up and activate your personal leadership before others.
“Personal leadership is closely tied with helping others and finding common ground,” says Stefan. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2021, leadership quality is viewed as a vital criteria seeked for in employees by 48% of businesses. To showcase leadership and utilise this quality well, we must first be able to explore our personal leadership. Stefan truly believes that personal leadership was necessary to understand the youth’s problems and find common ground to overcome them. Narrowing it down to three simple steps, he shared with us the ways to activate leadership:
- Seek people who are interested in you. They would be the ones who would care about your personal growth and focus on developing you
- Be patient. The right opportunities and chances often come to those who are patient and approachable enough to wait for the right moment.
- Put ample focus on projects that touch your heart – personal leadership is also about following what is right for you to bring out the best in yourself.
Stefan’s experiences in AIESEC have given him great insight into the corporate world. The early exposure allowed him to be an outstanding leader today. He has rich experience in various industries, from education to banking, engineering, and plantation. As the current Head of Business Transformation at Asian Agri, he has a great advantage due to his prior exposure in operation during his journey in AIESEC. “I’m not an expert in these industries, but leadership brought me to where I am today,” he said. Cultivate a great attitude because attitude determines your altitude.
As a leader, you are the people’s go-to person. While activating leadership is the fundamental solution for youth, they should practise the applicable values like enjoying participation in their daily lives. Stay with us for the following aspects in shaping well-rounded leaders!