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Not Leadership Material? Project Everest Disagrees

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For a lot of people, leadership is something that you either have or you don’t. People are born leaders – they aren’t created.  But a new social enterprise is hoping to change the way we see leadership, proving how all of us have the potential to be great leaders.

Project Everest is a Sydney-based organisation dedicated to solving social issues through enterprise. Founded in 2014 by Sonia Lipski and Hari Adhikari, Project Everest currently has projects established in Fiji, Cambodia and Timor Leste tackling issues such as water and sanitation, food and agriculture security, and environmental sustainability. A big part of achieving their goals is developing leaders.

Speaking from the S4S National Leadership Conference in Wollongong, General Manager for Project Everest, Wade Tink, believes that everyone can be a leader – it’s only a matter of believing in yourself.

“It’s so important that you don’t need to change who you are to become a leader – you already are one,” Wade said.

Project Everest General Manager Wade Tink speaking at the S4S National Leadership Conference in Wollongong. Source

Wade is certainly well-positioned to talk about leadership.  Having started work in this field with the 40K organisation, Wade’s passion for social enterprise was noticed by Project Everest Founder Sonia Lipski, and he was soon offered a position with the organisation.  Teaching leadership, he says, is an experimental process, and mostly involves offering a supportive environment for young people to develop.

“I’m not for, you know the online courses that teach you leadership. I’m not for the online courses that teach you entrepreneurship. I don’t think those can be taught online,” Wade said.

“You need to practise it in a scenario base so you can make mistakes.”

Project Everest Operations Coordinator, Amber Johnston, agrees. After finishing a commerce degree, Amber didn’t want to join the corporate world, but was otherwise uncertain about her career. Project Everest she says, enabled her to combine her passion with her job.

“What I got out of Project Everest was actually finding out what I wanted to do with my life,” Amber said.

Operations Coordinator Amber Johnston. Source

Amber’s experience reflects on the hopes that Project Everest has for all its young volunteer leaders. While the organisation’s projects primarily aim to address challenges in developing communities, their network of volunteers also develop leadership skills in the process

“Ideally everyone goes through it and has an experience that changes the way they think about things, or the way they process things,” Amber said.

“You are a person who is capable of achieving so much.”

One of the biggest challenges in teaching leadership, Wade says, is getting students to lead through a variety of ways. While collaborative leadership is a good strategy, Wade believes it’s sometimes important to be stricter, or more lenient. Assertiveness is not something that comes naturally to everyone, and it can be challenging sometimes trying to teach students to take charge and direct others.

“It’s hard to get people to be directive and assertive when they lead,” said Wade, “It’s one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced.”

Overall, Amber and Wade stressed the how important it was for a good leader to have self-belief. Everyone has the potential to be a leader, it’s all about having the guts to get out there and give things a go.

“We don’t actually create anything within people, it’s already there,” Amber said, “we’re all about unleashing it.”