Musings on Leadership

Summer 2015

Jonah Zankl

Schulich Leader at University of Calgary

What does it mean to be a leader? 
Throughout the year I have engaged with numerous programs at the University of Calgary expanding my horizons as a leader and community member, gaining skills and nurturing relationships with organizations. But what does it all come down to at the end of the day? As a leader, we are bound to reaching various levels of success, whether that be through defined metrics and tangible outcomes, or intrinsic value to the University or beyond. Over the course of the year, I have begun to wonder whether this is what the true meaning is or whether there is something more. 
What does it mean to lead yourself? 
Before it becomes evident that you can lead others, you must clearly learn to lead yourself, for if you cannot keep the single most important person in your world on track and focused, how can you expect to lead a group or organization. Thankfully, the University of Calgary helps on that note. Two years ago, I participated in the StrengthsFinder program, fresh out of high school and naïve in what these next years would bring. Boiling down my personality and traits into my top five Strengths begun the process in understanding what makes me tick; subsequent workshops have honed in further and have developed my understanding on my personal leadership. Achiever, Learner, Relator, Input, Self-Assurance. They appear almost obvious at first, but two years on deliberative interpretation of what they mean to my success has led to how I can develop into a better leader, first for myself, then others. Understanding how these five traits both define my work and how I engage best with team members has helped in bridging value and skill differences in numerous occasions. I have become a strong believer that in order for projects to be successful, you not only have to be accountable to the project as a whole, but also to yourself in every action that you take. I have watched great success and triumph, but also severe obstacles, appear from the plenty or lack of this important notion. Lead yourself first and the rest falls into place.
Where have I led this year? 
ATB Financial: As part of a team of three, I had the chance to lead projects in creating digital banking experiences for our customers. My first “real” job allowed me to apply my education and drive to create some pretty amazing products for people. This summer job was a great opportunity and has opened doors I did not imagine, I will continue working throughout the school year, leading projects and myself into learning more about banking. 
UCalgary Solar Car Team: 7 days in Austin, Texas at the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 track, talk about exciting! After months of planning, frantic working, meetings, and metrics, we made it. We placed 9th out of 15 teams from across North America and proved once again that our team is built for success. I travelled with 18 individuals who are not only team mates, but also some of my best friends; after all the time we spent together this year, it’s no wonder we all get along so well! Here I had the pleasure of leading the logistics work into getting our team there; I had to learn a lot about how to manage such a dynamic trip, but also how to work so closely with my team. 
Orientation Week: Nothing spells school spirit and Dino pride like welcoming 4000 undergraduates to our campus each September; I have been fortunate to participate as an Orientation Leader for the past two years, passing on my small musings about campus life, history, and leadership to incoming students, paving the way to their future success. 
Science Students Society, developing policy and financial framework. Scholars Academy, partnered with the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone. Fuse Collective, facilitated team communication workshops. Strathmore Assembly of Youth, grant application advising. And so many more. The commonality: leading myself first, the rest all falls into place.