Being a leader isn’t just for extroverts.
Or at least that’s what the chaplain (head of membership development) of a Dalhousie University fraternity is trying to teach in a new leadership program.
“I believe that everyone is a leader in their own right, in their own way,” says Sam Travaglini, a fourth-year history student and member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
“You don’t have to be the outgoing, frosh leader of the year type to be a leader.”
Travaglini launched a pilot for his Developing Leadership Program this week. For one hour every week for two months, he will help 10 volunteers from his fraternity to thrive on their strengths and identify their weaknesses as leaders.
For example, one section of the program involves basic presentation skills, since “every leader needs to know how to present and how to command a room, and get people’s attention and keep it for however long they’re presenting.”
Nathan Brenan, the president of the fraternity and an advisor on the program, says he realized Phi Delta Theta had the potential to give him the experiences he needed for success after university.
Being a member for four years now, he hopes the program will teach new members the same.
“Many people are willing to learn, they just do not know how,” Brenan says.
“Sam has created a program that we can now give to the guys and say this is one thing you are receiving from the fraternity and if you are willing to step up to the challenge you can become a better leader from it.”
The program uses a variety of exercises to create confidence and banish self-doubt. One exercise is called Positivity Pointers, in which a few participants sit in a circle and pass around pieces of paper on which they write compliments about one another.
“By the time you get your sheet back, you have five things that are positive about you,” Travaglini says. “One thing that the Positivity Pointers do is allow that person to see the good things about them.”
In running each session as a discussion rather than a lecture, Travaglini hopes to build up confidence in his volunteers.
The ability to talk in front of a group is integral to the Soapbox exercise as well, where each member takes 30 seconds to stand up and talk about any topic. This activity eventually translates into the speech skills necessary for a strong presentation.
Travaglini has been able to identify particular characteristics that make someone a strong leader, says Graham Erskine, a member of Phi Delta Theta and an advisor in the creation of the piloted program.
“University is when we learn and develop skills, both personal and professional, that we will use for the rest of our lives, and this is exactly what Sam’s program aims to do,” Erskine says.
The recognition of one’s own skills and strengths is what the program aims to do, and is what’s currently lacking in many young students, says Phil Cantrill, the Alpha North Province President of the fraternity. He also works in the career transition industry and helps people realize their potential when finding a new job.
“I see the consistent disconnect from the skills and teachings to an individual’s ability to execute these skills,” says Cantrill.
If the pilot is successful among the members of Phi Delta Theta, Travaglini could go on to be a facilitator at the East Coast Leadership Conference in Halifax in February.
He also hopes to eventually expand his program into the community to help adults, and high school and university students to realize their leadership potential.
“It’s to become a lifelong leader,” Travaglini says.
“You don’t have to be the president or the CEO to be a leader, you just have to respect the people around you, you have to be confident, and you have to be sure of what you say.”