Students studying (with masks)

From Academic Inclusive Initiatives comes “Being U at UT: Exploring Authentic Leadership,” a two-day event held over Zoom about student success and being a leader in your own individual ways, led by program coordinator Jamie Clinton and graduate assistant William Cutts.

The event began with an icebreaker to introduce participants, and then a poll was taken to ask students their thoughts about the concept of one’s authentic self and their feelings about it.

A brainstorming activity about authenticity was then carried out to emphasize the major aspects of being authentic in life and also in leadership.

In general, authentic leadership involves leading with purpose in mind and establishing relationships, as well as staying true to your own values and self while leading others.

This event was interactive, with different breakout rooms and activities throughout the hour and encouraging participants to interact with each other in order to discuss different ideas and practice authenticity in small ways.

As the group communicated more and more, many participants expressed a relief for feeling as if they are still learning about themselves as people and as leaders, and event organizer William Cutts spoke about the importance of kindness, even while discovering your own individual values.

“When people are committed to being kind, it helps ease the fears of the world, knowing that there are good people,” Cutts said.

A major aspect of authentic leadership is knowing yourself and your values and purpose, and much of the conversation focused around learning about yourself in the ways that helps others.

Clinton then spoke about how authentic leadership relates to college and the experiences college students have, including how clubs and groups on campus can help to practice authentic leadership in order to feel more comfortable and focused on individual values.

“You really want to align the things you’re doing with your purpose,” Clinton said.

Discussion was then opened up about some of the challenges to feeling authentic in professional or academic spaces, including fear of judgment and lack of confidence, and how people can push past these obstacles. 

For example, in more professional spaces and around older adults, it can be hard to feel like you can be yourself for fear of judgment from others, but it is important to be as authentic as possible.

Clinton and Cutts shared some tips for authenticity in different leadership roles, which included self-reflection, trusting instincts, having an accountability partner, understanding personal values, inspiring and empowering those around you and playing to your own strengths.

Cutts spoke further about the importance of understanding personal values.

“If you can’t help yourself, you can’t expect to help others effectively,” Cutts said.

The event was full of resources and honest discussion about leadership and being your true self, and Academic Inclusive Initiatives will continue to hold similar events throughout the semester.

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