Catching up with LeaderShape student Austin Kraft

Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 4:00pm

Austin Kraft (far right, above) thought he knew how to be an effective leader. He was a drum major in his high school’s marching band and a captain of the speech team. He also got involved student government when he started at the U.

That changed after Kraft, who just finished his first year in the U’s College of Science and Engineering, took part in LeaderShape. Sponsored by Land O’Lakes, LeaderShape is a week-long program in which students learn about leadership, their personal potential, and goal setting. He was one of 60 U of M students who participated this year.

We caught up with Austin at the end of spring semester. Here, he reflects on how the experience changed his views of leadership:

-“In high school, I thought that being a leader was an inherently extroverted activity; leaders heavily interact with people, so they must be extroverts, right? The week at the LeaderShape Institute revealed to me that a leader is not always the loudest, most outgoing person in the room. Leaders are active listeners, willing to genuinely listen to others’ stories and willing to take a back-seat in conversations when appropriate. Leadership is not an extroverts-only club. As an introvert, I find this reality extremely energizing.

-“Sponsorship from Land O’Lakes made it possible for me to attend LeaderShape. The sticker price probably would have discouraged me from even applying. At first glance, the LeaderShape experience probably sounds bizarre: a week during winter break in which a group of strangers are brought together and hardly use their phones. By sharing our stories and visions, however, we grew inextricably tight; the transformation from strangers to friends was at once rapid, unexpected, and empowering.

-“LeaderShape challenged me to look beyond myself, to be vulnerable in reaching out to others for collaboration and support in my growth as a leader. Taking time to deliberately consider my values and decision-making strategies clarified my strengths and weaknesses. I realized that I deeply value stability in personal and professional decisions. I can own this knowledge about myself to understand how I can contribute to group discussions and activities.”

Photo: Xinyuan Zhang, LeaderShape