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Humanity core theme in certificate ceremony Leiden Leadership Programme

On 3 July, students of the Leiden Leadership Programme received their certificates in the Marekerk church in Leiden. During the festive closing ceremony, it became clear that humanity and leadership go hand in hand. ‘As a leader, you have to listen, observe and acknowledge problems.’

Upon entering, participants enthusiastically embrace each other. Last year, they worked together intensively during the Leiden Leadership Programme (LLP), an extracurricular honours programme for master's students. The LLP enables students to earn 15 EC through lectures, skills trainings and a practical assignment, in addition to their regular study programme. Those graduating today are the first to have completed the renewed LLP. As of last year, the programme has been reshaped and been made available to more students, including internationals.  

Not a goal in itself 

‘A year ago, this programme only existed on paper,’ says Ben Kuipers, professor of Public Leadership, who is involved in the reshaping of the new LLP. He is proud that they have succeeded in offering students a challenging programme. ‘Leadership is about connecting people, and what other programme have you participated in where so many people with so many different areas of expertise are brought together?’

‘Instead of leaders, I prefer to talk about leadership - something we can all act upon,’ Kuipers continues. Those acts, students in the LLP learn, are not a goal in itself. ‘It’s about the impact you can make to make the world safer, healthier, more sustainable and inclusive. I hope you have gained new tools, perspectives and connections that inspire you to accomplish this.’ 

Gaining experience

Making an impact is a particular focal point of the Leadership Labs. In interdisciplinary groups, participants tackle a practical issue put forth by a partner organisation. A good preparation for the job market, thinks Jacobijn Gussekloo. As Dean of the Honours Academy, she congratulates the students. ‘It is not easy to work in an interdisciplinary team - not even to work within one discipline,’ Gussekloo notes with a wink. ‘You have gained experience with that in the LLP.’

Olaf Simonse, supervisor of Lab teams who worked with the theme Equality & Inclusion, agrees. ‘The students have encountered many challenges during their journey; challenges they may also encounter in their work life. Nonetheless, they all completed their assignments successfully, and I greatly admire them because of that. I hope the lessons they learned will stay with them.’

A lifelong learning process

Their speeches at the ceremony demonstrated that the students did indeed learn a lot. Anastasia, for instance, learned that she, too, can show leadership, without having to pretend to be someone else. ‘I don’t have to be strict, angry or loud. I can be me. And by working on skills, I can become better and better. Leadership is not a destination, but a lifelong learning process. I strongly believe we all have it in us to make a difference.’

Empathy and communication are crucial in this, Samera and Lisa learned from their practical assignment. ‘Effective policy-making requires for you to connect with the target audience.’ Even, or especially, when that group is hard to reach. ‘The basis of communication lies in equity,’ says Samera, ‘making sure the other person feels heard. As a leader, you have to listen, observe and acknowledge problems of whomever you meet.’

‘Mind your step’

There is also room for reflection by someone outside of academia during the ceremony. Sascha Luinenburg of spoken word collective ROEM reads to the audience The World is Everything, the World is Nothing, written and dedicated to the LLP students. In his story Luinenburg takes the students with him, on a quest for leadership. 

Like many other things, Luinenburg says, leadership only exists where we bring it to life. ‘We would love to have a guide to lead us the way, but let’s face it: where we are headed, there is no guide. Welcome to the messy world of pioneering, please mind your step.’ 

‘Leadership all too often seems invisible. Until one day the new world you have been trying to shape looks back at you and says: here I am.’ It’s not a bad thing if you don’t know where to start, reassures Luinenburg. One thing, however, should be noted. ‘Leadership is often described as seeing opportunities where others see obstacles. I would like to add that it’s also about seeing living persons where others see bare facts.’ There is no doubt the brand-new LLP alumni carry this message close to their hearts.

Text: Michiel Knoester
Photos: Eric van den Bandt

Sascha Luinenburg of spoken word collectief ROEM
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