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“Si Tu Veux, Tu Peux”: Meet Leo Szivo, President of AIESEC UK

There are some people who were born with the leadership gene in their DNA. Leo Szivo is definitely one of them! He joined AIESEC City when he started his degree and 3 years later here he is: President of AIESEC UK. He went to India, working for charities and schools, attended the AIESEC International Conference in Russia and is now managing a student membership of 700 people.

But a good leader is one who makes things happen and whose biggest achievements are always linked to the successes of his team. Ladies and gentlemen here’s the story of Leo, a cool dude and a great leader, that you should definitely meet!

First of all, what year are you and what are you studying? I started my Management degree at Cass Business School in 2010, and completed two years before starting my full-time role at AIESEC UK and interrupting my degree.

Tell me about AIESEC and explain what you do and what your role is. AIESEC is the largest youth-run organisation in the world. It develops responsible, global leaders, through offering self-driven, practical learning experiences. AIESEC facilitates exchange experiences around the world, providing opportunities ranging from volunteering to professional internships, working in educational institutions, charities, companies and many more. This year, I am the president of AIESEC UK. I was elected for a one-year role and am currently working in the London office, leading a team of 5, overseeing the operations of 22 local chapters at universities around the UK, and indirectly managing a student membership of 700.

Why did you decide to join AIESEC at the beginning? The main two reasons were the people and the opportunity to travel. I wanted to be part of something “larger than myself”, with people that are like-minded, ambitious, responsible, caring about the world. Also, I have always been a keen traveller and lived in 4 different countries – so the opportunity to go on an internship with AIESEC attracted me a lot. Less than a year after, I was in India for 2 months working with charities and schools around the country.

Which were your biggest achievements as president? My biggest achievement was linked to what my team and members went on doing afterwards: one of them is currently working in Laos, to set up AIESEC there. Another one is a young entrepreneur and CEO of an SME in Kenya. There are so many inspiring stories of what people went on doing within AIESEC and outside, after the experiences we (I) enabled them to live.

How is it like to be a leader? Being a leader for me, in the 21st century, is about being purpose-driven, being values-based, and passionate about what you do and what you fight for. Being a leader is having the yearning to do what you do in the service of something larger than yourself.

Which are the qualities a good leader needs to have? There are so many! Overall, in my opinion, any leader needs three things: striving for insecurity, power of conviction and openness.

Can you tell as a funny memory as Aiesecer? My 20th birthday – which I spent at the largest international conference of AIESEC: International Congress 2012, in Russia. My team made sure I would remember this day forever and made me wear some ridiculous Russian traditional clothes all day, with a big sign on a flipchart indicating it was my birthday. Being with 800 other people from 120+ countries, it was a funny and quite  embarrassing…

Plans for the future? I have many different plans for the future, but nothing clear and set yet. I have applied to be part of AIESEC International, the global team of 20+ people based in Rotterdam, so we will see how that goes (results are out end of March!). Otherwise, I know I want to finish studies eventually, I want to travel the world and live in different countries (travel to 100, live in 15) in my life, and I want to set up my own social enterprise before I’m 30. Until then, we will see!

Finally, it’s Mother’s Day on the 30th. Were you a mama’s boy? Any thoughts you’d like to share with us? I was, yes! As a child, my father was not home much so I spent all my time with my mom. She had thought me so much: love, humility, empathy, respect for others, and how to believe in myself. She used to say when I was a kid: “Si tu veux, tu peux” (If you want, you can). Very wise indeed!

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