How NFGL Local Network Stockholm University developed their leadership skills

Zhenya Ter-Vardanyan, Chairperson of SI NFGL Local Network Stockholm University, recalls her network's leadership workshop in Uppsala. Here, she describes what they learned.

How NFGL Local Network Stockholm University developed their leadership skills

SI NFGL Local Network Stockholm University organised a study visit to Uppsala on November 18, 2018. The goals of the event were threefold: first to get together all of the SI scholarship holders from Stockholm; secondly, to build a strong network with Uppsala University, and thirdly, to develop leadership skills of the participants.

In order to run a productive workshop efficiently without mishap, the SI NFGL Network SU had kept in touch with Uppsala network before the event. First of all, the venue of the event had been finalised, and then the agenda had been set in order to schedule the activities properly.

The day began with an exciting tour of Uppsala city. SI scholarship holders took a commuter train to Uppsala. Before reaching the city, the participants did not miss the opportunity to network with each other. Since most of them were novice students, they interacted with each other, told their stories and shared their experiences.

When arriving in Uppsala city, the participants went for a walk around Uppsala, one of Sweden’s oldest cities, dating back to the 3rd century. The study visit to Uppsala contributed to the cultural development of the participants. SI members took a slow stroll and enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the riverside toward Uppsala’s historical districts. They visited the Uppsala Cathedral, an impressive and beautiful building which dominated the city’s skyline – on the way they passed by the Uppsala Castle and visited Uppsala University.

After the tour in Uppsala city, the SI members of Uppsala network got ready to welcome SI scholars from Stockholm.
The workshop consisted of four activities.  

Activity #1: Leadership quotes 

The participants of the event were asked to choose one of the leadership quotes which appealed to them most or showed their leadership values. Each participant explained why that quote was representative of him or her. 

Activity #2: Tallest Tower 

For this activity the participants were given a variety of items to build the tallest tower. During this activity the participants formed groups of maximum five people and started to build the tallest freestanding structure from the provided items. This activity addressed creative problem solving and collaboration skills of the team members. Since this activity had specific time limit and objectives, the participants had to work efficiently in the teams, thereby developing time management skills and reaching the target goal though collaboration, creativity and teamwork.

Leadership workshop activity #3: Magic carpet 

For this activity the teams were provided with a small tarp or rug that allowed all workshop participants to stand within its boundaries. Each group worked as a team to flip the tarp or rug over without anyone stepping off. This activity made the participants work together outside of their comfort zones. 

Leadership workshop activity #4: Poster presentation 

After all these activities each group created a poster on ‘Leadership’ with the office materials given to them. The teams wrote down their own definition of 'Leadership’, did a SWOT analysis of their leadership skills, and gave suggestions of how to steer clear of conflict within the group.

As it is inferred from the SWOT analysis, the participants deemed rhetorical speech as one of the strengths of leadership. Apart from that, they mentioned that leadership required high commitment, patience and moral values from the members. Furthermore, they noticed that the leaders needed to handle criticism openly, which suggested strong ethical skills.

In regard with the weaknesses, SI members considered leadership as time-consuming. The pitfalls of leadership activities could be further related to 'bad followers', those with narrow mindset or those who were of bossy disposition.

Irrespective of the drawbacks, the participants noted that leadership activities could spur the members, inspire them in their prospective work and play as a role model for the others.

However, lack of appropriate funds, support from the authorities, as well as scarcity of resource materials in general in different aspects of life may pose a threat to the efficient implementation of the leadership events or activities of the company.

In order to avert the imminent threats, the future global leaders found it necessary for those organisations to find external grants in order to avoid impending results. Moreover, according to them, frequent meetings, teamwork activities and networking events build confidence, trust and respect among different networks.

As stated by Vince Lombardi: “Individual commitment to a group effort is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work”. Likewise, individual commitment of SI scholarship members made the workshop work, the network operate and thrive on regular meetings. For SI scholars coming together was the beginning of the network, staying together during exam periods is the progress, and only working together makes it feasible to achieve tangible results of success.

Let’s not forget, that Swedish Institute does its best to encourage all members to network with each other. Day by day the members are equipped with knowledge and skills related to various aspects of life. In the big Swedish Institute network, the team work makes the dream work through cooperation, partnership and mutual respect.

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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.