Second-Annual Leadership Retreat Inspires Leadership

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students at retreatAn enthusiastic group of Duke Law students carved time out of their busy schedules to attend the second annual Community Roundtable Leadership Retreat for current and aspiring student leaders from October 24-25. The retreat emphasized Duke Blueprint values — especially leadership — through hands-on activities, group discussions and professional speakers.

The retreat began with an opportunity for students to meet and connect with one another by tackling a ropes course led by Duke's Project WILD. The course challenged students to work together and build trust by overcoming obstacles like a 16-foot vertical wall, a giant "spider web," and a "toxic Nitro-river." The students, divided into three groups, all approached each challenge differently and relied on each member's strengths. One team-member provided her group with an added boost; as a former ACC high jump champion, she ultimately scaled the wall in one leap!

The trust and camaraderie built during the afternoon continued into the evening as students ate dinner at their off-campus retreat location. As they relived events of the day, they were asked to question the difference between a good leader and a great leader. Speaker Joe Diab JD/LLM '92, a practicing attorney, mediator, negotiator and executive coach, started the conversation with the poem, "The Invitation" by Oriah Mountaindreamer.

In the poem Mountaindreamer says, "It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing." By asking students to identify qualities they had observed in great leaders, Diab taught students that great leaders connect with and respect others, have empathy, courage, fortitude and strength of character. But, in order to make full use of these qualities while being busy, stressed and overworked, Diab said great leaders draw energy from their "wellspring," the thing that gives back to them.

Diab asked the students, "[Because you are at Duke Law School], all of you have the capacity to be truly good but, can you in fact be superior and inspiring? What do you need internally to do that?" He also reminded students that leadership is not your title or position because that is secondary to what and who you are.

Saturday morning's session was led by Dr. Lori Todd. A professor at UNC and the founding partner of the North Carolina Legacy Center, Dr. Todd prompted students to learn about their own leadership styles and taught the students in attendance how to communicate effectively with different types of leaders. Through role playing and brainstorming, students learned how others "hear" their messages and how they could, in turn, be more responsive to different types of messaging.

John Spencer, director of student activities, said, "Prior to the weekend, several students relayed their skepticism about listening to professional speakers. However, at the close of the retreat on Saturday, most of those same students came up to me to express their appreciation for the opportunity to learn about their own leadership styles and how they can carry that message to their clubs constituents."

First-year law student and Mordecai scholar Matt Leerburg reflected Spencer's thoughts, "The most rewarding aspect of the retreat for me was learning about the passions of my fellow students. I don't think I appreciated the intensity of dedication that my peers bring to their organizations."