2016 Delegate Reflection by Eka Setiyawan

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Becoming a good leader requires more than an impressive resume and a strong personality. There must be something in you that justifies the loyalty and commitment of those who follow.


On the 1st of September, 230 young adults from Australia and the Pacific Region had the opportunity to attend the 18th National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) on Faith and Values at Australia’s Capital, Canberra. I think it’s important to seek opportunities to grow to a greater understanding with our peers, whether that would be through an internship, leadership position or forums such as these. I believe each of us who went were motivated to further improve our ability to lead and live for others through leadership development, thought-provoking discussions and activities alongside like-minded individuals. To learn what leadership is composed of: what I believe is being active; compassionate, and charismatic. This forum gave the chance to do just that in an environment where openness and transparency are encouraged, something that I value strongly; to share your story and listen to the story of your mates, engage in volunteering activities that add social capital to our local community and to see politicians in a different spotlight. To also learn more about how we better can use our faith and values to better serve our communities and in our vocation. This forum speaks more to your character than it does to your abilities or achievements.

What is NSLF?

NSLF is a four-day conference that brings young adults of diverse cultures from many different backgrounds – Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim and Buddhist and a large number with no religious background at all. This diversity is what enriches this forum. It is made up a variety of activities beginning late Thursday morning and concluding before lunch on Sunday. While the specific program varies from year to year, it includes a day spent in Parliament House (great for architectural photography), Keynote addresses from the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten; Keynote addresses by other inspiring men and women from varying walks of life, small group discussions, a local community service project, a sport and recreation afternoon, and an end of Forum dance night! One dimension of the Forum program that is always significant is the time spent in small groups that provide delegates with an opportunity to make life-long mateships.

What did I learn?

I strongly believe in the significance of faith and values as foundations for effective leadership as global citizens. I seek to embody this passion throughout my career as a future professional driven to find the next great-step change in my field. I must ask how my field can best benefit humanity and serve the world. This forum provided the platform to discuss and learn the views of other future leaders with a range of stances and backgrounds, and help solidify my understanding of what it means to lead with servant. I’ve internalised the message of giving and service and developed what those mean and the ways in which I can help others through my extracurricular experiences with UQ and the wider community. If I had to summarise the forum in three ideas, it would be:

1. Think big, act small – we all can do small acts with great purpose. We see all these opportunities to volunteer overseas and I think that isn’t always the best case when sometimes that opportunity is right in our neighbourhood. This may be simple as offering to help the elderly in doing their gardening (which is what exactly what we did during the forum). All our huge accomplishments are made of small, continued successes filled with perseverance. We make changes on the simple everyday interaction level, as well as planning for bigger, more tactile actions with our peers.
Members of Parliament have found just how challenging it is to be good leaders. It is easy, to begin with great idealism but to become disillusioned and cynical in the face of adversities and disappointments. That’s why our faith and values are so important: they are the inner resources that we draw from to become the right kind of leader and to keep our original vision alive.

2. Find an anchor point – life isn’t always a smooth sail, and when the storm comes have a foundation that we can go back to and reflect on that challenge. Our faith and values shape our moral compass and you don’t have to a religion to have a set of faith and values, it’s the way by which you live and act your life.
Being a servant leader cuts across the grain of personal pride and ego and none of us find it easy. In political life we often feel that we fail as much as we succeed! Nonetheless, it is so important to come back to these ‘first principles’.
3. Befriend wisely – they say, we are the five people who we are closest to; ask the question, are those five people, the people who you would like to represent you and vice versa? Nature or nurture they say, I believe who we are as a bunch of atoms derives from evolution (nature), though who we are intrinsically is a result of our environment and the people who we engage with (nurture). Having had the chance to move and live in three countries, primarily in Indonesia and Australia has taught me that our experiences shapes who we are, and it’s what we decide to do with those experiences that matter more. And as we grow to a greater understanding and hopefully wiser, our priorities change and so may our faith and values become ever more concrete/fluid.

It’s not about being the best in the world, it’s about being the best for the world.

Eka Setiyawan was a delegate at the 2016 Forum, nominated by Emmanuel College at the University of Queensland. We are grateful for his feedback and reflections.

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