Becoming a Catalyst in One Day

A week or so prior to our March spring break, the entire school received an email inviting them to join the Catalyst leadership program. At Colby, we receive promotional emails about once a week or so, and usually, I mark them as read and move on down my inbox, but this time something stopped me. I opened the email and read more about the day-long leadership workshop. The program called “Catalyst” is a one-day program through a company called LeaderShape. The mission of LeaderShape is to, “transform the world by increasing the number of people who lead with integrity and a healthy disregard for the impossible.” After looking into the program, I made an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision and signed up.

To be honest, as the weekend approached I grew a tad wary of my decision. I didn’t know anyone else who was going to be there and I knew it involved getting up relatively early. Considering it was during our spring break weekend, I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up a whole day of my four-day break. Despite this, I stuck with it.

I showed up at 8:53 on Monday morning to the alumni center, a building I’d never even visited before, and took a seat in the empty room. There was inspirational music playing, and the sun shone through large windows into the conference room. I’m not sure why, and maybe I was feeling whimsical and giddy with uncertainty, but it felt like a place where something amazing could happen. According to the name tags spread across the sign-in table, there were supposed to be about ten of us participating, but only four showed up; it was nice and intimate.

When I heard the word leadership prior to that day, I often thought about leading others and what it takes to gain the trust and support of your “tribe.” On my soccer team here at Colby, we often discuss what it means to be a leader, so I felt like I knew what to expect going into a leadership convention. I was wrong.

The way I would describe Catalyst’s agenda wouldn’t be learning how to interact with and evaluate other personalities, it was how to establish and evaluate your own. We learned that the key to being a leader is authenticity, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and knowing who is in the community you’ve surrounded yourself with. For example, we learned about the different types of relationships it's possible to have, and sorted our friends and family into those roles. This was interesting because it showed what aspects of support the people around you fulfilled, and what types of people were missing from your support system. As someone who considers myself an introvert, it was interesting to be led through a series of activities that promoted authenticity and real, healthy conversation. In a room with three other people I had never met before, I realized truths about myself and even spoke some of them out loud that I have never explored with even my closest friends and family members.

I think that this workshop would have been even more powerful in a non-COVID year because of the way it encourages personal interactions and builds new relationships, but I feel as though I learned a lot about myself in the day I had, too.

I think part of the reason I signed up for Catalyst is because in the current social climate of the world, I feel frustrated and frozen by my own inaction. Just as activities like volunteering can make you feel more grateful, I hoped that learning about leadership would prepare me to turn action plans into reality every day. After the convention, I do think that I learned something, but I think I realized that action can be as simple as having an honest conversation with yourself and your community. Building relationships with people around you is the best way to kickstart real, meaningful change, and thanks to Catalyst and LeaderShape, I feel more prepared to make a difference.