A warm welcome to a new generation of leaders

A blog by Johanna Richardsson

“I just got back from Öland and the Soroptimist Nordic Leadership Academy (SNLA), 26 -30 of June 2017 and I am still stunned by all the willpower, skills and development on many levels that this week offered. Twenty-three young women from all the five Nordic countries gathered at Ölands Folkhögskola, and were greeted by a team of Soroptimists that all shared their experiences, in one way or another. Monday began with yoga and thereafter a presentation of Soroptimist International and a welcome to all participants. We continued with the full five-day schedule which covered areas such as Communicative Leadership, Mental Training, Presentation Techniques, Debating, SCARF-model, Team Work, Project Planning, Intercultural Communication, Emotional Intelligence and Economics.

Our presenters brought important topics and knowledge to the table, but what made this academy stand out is the emphasis placed on personal development. Going into depth of who you are and what you are about is very important when it comes to being a good leader. Most often this is not taught in University and to me this is the most important part in life and in leadership as such. The best route to personal development is to listen to someone who is more experienced, and also someone who is willing to open up and tell their life story. Therefore we invited three role models –  Anna Soltorp Head of Sustainability BRA Airlines, Anna Karlsson CEO Kalmar Energi and Estrid Brekkan Iceland’s Ambassador to Sweden. We met up in the gym and sat in a circle to create a more relaxed and inclusive atmosphere. When people open up and go beyond their title it becomes interesting and we begin to get to know that person a whole lot better, as well as getting the opportunity to learn from other peoples experiences and mistakes, from hard times and of course discover the solutions to continue forward towards a dream. This is an opportunity to find a role model or mentor who knows what she is talking about.

At the beginning of the week, the young women attending the academy were asked to prepare a presentation on the topic ‘My Dream’ and it was presented on our last day together. After singing lessons, presentation techniques and debating, the participants were ready for their task. Not only did they do a great job presenting, but they opened up and shared with us why they have this particular dream or why they are still searching for it. The participants took giant leaps out of their comfort zones and gave us stories that moved us to tears. It was evident to all how our personal experiences form us and give us direction. The willpower in the classroom did not pass anyone by. As an observer I was moved by and proud of the young women, and I felt inspired to pursue my own dreams.

We have so much to learn from each other and when the participants were asked to give advice on how to improve our organization a lot of useful suggestions were given. For instance if we would like to spark an interest in youth we ought to work on visibility and marketing. We need to be easier to find on the internet and be more uniform when it comes to logos and pages. Give a clear message! Youth groups are important and perhaps a sister organization where the younger women can start could take form. We need to listen to these voices! Kärstin Jacobsson, President SI Sweden said during the closing ceremony that “we need to water and fertilize the seeds we have just sown” and hopefully this growth mindset will continue to bloom in our young leaders. The week of SNLA was intense and emotional to say the least but also strengthening. These women joined SNLA for a reason and this is the start of a new network that you will see more of in the future!

A warm thank you to the Nordic Council of Ministers and SI of Europe for making SNLA 2017 possible. Also many thanks to the clubs that donated money”.

The next SNLA will take place in Norway 2018.

Lead image by Annica Sjögren 

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