By: MJ Rott
As Robin S. Sharma quoted, “Leadership is not about a title or destination, it is about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involved get results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work and you have to inspire teammates and customers.”
Cara Stricklin, a rising senior on the gymnastics team, knows what it is like to be in a leadership position both in and out of the gym. Two weeks ago, she attended the LeaderShape Institute, returning for a second time as the On-Site Coordinator. Following her freshman year, she attending the Institute as a participant, where she and leaders from many campus organizations met for “six days of dialogue and self-discovery in a supportive learning community.”
LeaderShape was founded in 1986 by Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) as a leadership conference and has since become a non-profit corporation offering the Institute other colleges and organizations. Their mission statement is simple, “To transform the world by increasing the number of people who lead with integrity and have a healthy disregard for the impossible.” Auburn University holds their LeaderShape Institute in Rome, Ga., at the Winshape Retreat Center.
Here’s what she had to say about her experience.
MJ: How did you find out about it?
Cara: I found out about the camp through SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee). The Program Coordinator came in and gave an overview of the Institute. The more I read about it the more I realized I could meet a lot of people there outside of athletics. I knew that athletics was great, but there was a large percent of campus that I was missing out on and I wanted to find a way to “get in” with that crowd. I went that year and was the only student-athlete and it was a lot of fun because I could be something more than just ‘Cara the gymnast’. I got to learn more about myself, the other campus organizations, and what everyone else in Auburn is doing.
MJ: What was your experience like the second time going?
Cara: Because LeaderShape was such a big part of my freshman year, I wanted to go back and give that same experience to a new group of students. It was just a natural thing for me. The On-Site Coordinator is responsible for all the logistics of the week, such as supplies, staying on schedule, taking pictures, technology problems, and beyond. It was a role that I felt right at home doing.
MJ: Why did you want to go your freshman year?
Cara: Gymnastics doesn’t really let you do a whole lot of “campy stuff” and where we go is the Winshape Retreat Center. It was a chance to learn about leadership and to do fun things like a ropes course. That was one of the biggest things for me. And I just wanted to get the full college experience. I like to go and be my own person sometimes, and this was a chance to do that.
MJ: How has LeaderShape influenced you?
Cara: The curriculum that they taught changed how I interact with Auburn. I don’t just want to live in the “Athlete Bubble”. I want to get out and be able to interact and work with other organizations on campus. It’s kind of cheesy, but LeaderShape completely changed the direction I had for my college career and my time here in Auburn. It showed me that there is a lot more to be accomplished than just being an athlete. I was able to branch out and get to know other people from other organizations. I used that experience and created so many new partnerships between SAAC and other campus organizations.
MJ: What is the most important take away from LeaderShape?
Cara: Personal relationships, because it is extremely important that you know how to interact with different types of people. That was one of the biggest things. I went to LeaderShape from a background of athletes and yes, we are a diverse group of people, but in the gist of things we, athletes, all work the same way. With LeaderShape I was able to meet so many different people. I learned how to communicate and form personal relationships that will later in life, translate to job opportunities, partnerships, sponsorships, etc. Another big thing that I took from [LeaderShape] was communication; learning how to communicate and learning how others work so you can communicate better.
MJ: Would you recommend LeaderShape to anyone?
Cara: Absolutely! I would recommend LeaderShape to anyone. I’ve encouraged one of my teammates to go. I would recommend going the summer after freshman year, but really, just go! That way you’ve been on campus for a year, you’re starting to think ‘where do I fit in’ or maybe you’re already fitting in somewhere. But, the earlier you do LeaderShape, the bigger impact it will have on your college experience. You’ll be able to make connections, learn about yourself and leadership style and everything else. I was really glad that I got to go when I did.