What makes a good leader and how does a person become one? This is a question that has sparked the interest of many scholars in recent years, as the field of leadership studies has increased dramatically. Even at Northwestern, the idea that leadership is something that can be learned has become more of a hot topic, with the creation of the leadership minor and as enrollment in leadership classes grows. However, leadership is not just something studied in the classroom.
This semester, The Center for Innovation and Leadership at NW is once again offering the Leaders Are Readers book study for students, faculty, staff and community members that began Jan. 16 and will end April 30. This is an opportunity for students to learn and develop their leadership skills regardless of their major, and since the study is open to people beyond just NW students. It is an opportunity to engage what it means to be a good leader in a safe community with diverse experiences and perspectives.
For many participants, this safe community is what makes the book study so impactful. Lydia Baker, a participant in Leaders Are Readers last semester said, “The study was a really good experience just because of the group of people doing it. I felt very encouraged as a student because of the support of Dr. Vonk, and I felt that she was very intentional about including everyone in the conversation.” Dr. Vonk, the director for the Center for Innovation and Leadership, also serves as the facilitator of the book study.
This semester, participants will read and discuss two books during their six meetings. The first book, “The Perfection Trap” by Thomas Curran, highlights the dangers of society’s obsession with perfection. “There are just impossible standards that we cannot live up to, right?” said Dr. Vonk. “I think this book crosses over into some good discussions on grace, forgiveness and what it really means to have a fulfilling life.”
The second book, “Smart Brevity” by Jim VandeHei, discusses how to develop better, more concise communication. This book is for everyone. As Vonk says, “We all have this fear surrounding communication whether it’s written or verbal.” This book really gets at “How do we cut through the noise of life and be strong in our message and in our communication?”
Although a semesterlong book study may seem like a big commitment, Lydia Baker says, “Since the book study only meets six times a semester, it is easy to fit into a busy schedule.” Additionally, the Leaders Are Readers book study is a micro-credential. Micro-credentials offer students more flexibility when it comes to what they want to learn and when. Micro-credentials help students showcase their unique set of skills and interest to employers.
The Leaders Are Readers’ first meeting was on Jan. 16. However, students can join up until the second meeting on Feb. 6 by registering online. Since the study is a micro-credential, students will have to cover the cost of registration and purchase the books themselves. Fortunately, the cost is only 15 dollars with the student discount code. Additionally, each meeting will have a drawing for giveaway prizes.
Students of all academic backgrounds are encouraged to participate. “Everything The Center for Innovation and Leadership does is supposed to be interdisciplinary. It’s not just a business department thing at all. And so, when we do projects, it’s open to any student, any major, any department,” said Dr. Vonk. This book study is about learning life skills and personal skills. “It fits for any major. It fits for any person.”
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