Aspiring leaders gathered Saturday morning at the Student Activities Center for Canes LEAD, a one-day leadership conference featuring workshops, speeches, Adele sing-alongs and salsa dancing.
Canes LEAD (Learn, Empower, Aspire, Discover) brought together students and administration to encourage community activism and diversity.
Workshop topics included gender roles in society, effective communication and key leadership steps found in dancing.
Keynote speaker and comedian Stan Pearson II, who was chosen for his unorthodox style of presentation, tied basic salsa steps to leadership concepts, using the acronym S.A.L.S.A. – supporting, acting, learning, striving and accepting. Participants learned the basics of Los Angeles-style salsa dancing, which stressed Pearson’s point that good leadership requires a strong foundation.
Canes LEAD Planning Committee co-chair Imani Callan saw Pearson as a perfect candidate for this year’s conference.
“I liked him because he is very relatable,” Callan said. “He presents real-life concepts to you in a way that’s funny but also tells you how it is. Especially for kids our age, we don’t want to be lectured at.”
Pearson also used popular songs and comical anecdotes to stress the importance of being the best version of oneself. He said that being creative, consistent, persistent, and your own best friend makes the process easier.
“We lose more than we win because we celebrate our losses more than our victories,” Pearson said.
Students found Pearson’s real-life applications of his concepts to be helpful in further understanding the tenets of leadership.
“My favorite moment would be learning how to salsa dance,” sophomore Ivann Anderson said. “It was great to pretty much express myself with people who I did not know. It was a great networking opportunity. It’s good to express yourself.”
LEAD was hosted by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership and the Multicultural Student Affairs office. According to Canes LEAD Planning Committee co-chair Randall Seenandan, the union of these two offices made perfect sense.
“A lot of leadership styles include topics in diversity, and a lot of diversity topics involve a lot of leadership styles, so it was an easy marriage like that,” he said.
The event was held in the fall semester rather than in the spring to give students a better kickoff for this year’s leadership development events, according to the director of the Butler Center, Andrew Wiemer.
Canes LEAD aimed to make participants better aware of what they need most in order to be successful in life. Wiemer believes that acknowledging the world’s diversity is vital.
“No matter where you go in life or whatever you’re doing, you need to have a strong understanding of the people you are working with, the individuals you are interacting with on a regular basis, and that you have a strong sense of diversity in your own life in order to be successful,” Wiemer said.
Pearson thinks that the main takeaway from Canes LEAD should be that leadership requires the will to constantly improve.
“Be a better version of yourself the next day,” he said. “Leaders learn every day.”