Opening Ceremony and Thoughts on Leadership

Author: Mihaela Gruia

Day 1 of USLS2015

This post represents the first in a series from the ongoing University Scholars Leadership Symposium being covered on the ground by the GLOSS’s team. Please check in regularly to keep up to date with the latest news from the symposium.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University – USLS 2015. Today is the start of the 6th edition of the University Scholars Leadership Symposium. This event is an international programme that brings together 876 delegates from 57 countries, and offers inspirational seminars on leadership from various professionals. This year’s tagline is ‘Enrich, Educate, Enlighten’. According to the Regional Director of Humanitarian Affairs Asia, Miss Janice Leong, ‘by improving and enhancing our knowledge, enriching our minds and raising our awareness, we are also able to seek enlightenment, which will lead us to finding our story and discovering our life’s purpose and our destiny.’

The day started with a breathtaking performance from the Chinese Orchestra at the Polytechnic University. This was followed by a warm welcome from Professor Angelina Yuen, Acting President, of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, who kindly welcomed us to the host building. In line with the Symposium’s central theme, leadership, the speakers continuously challenged our thinking on whether we have the necessary qualities to be a leader. Professor Yuen enumerated four central qualities in this regard: the first quality is to aim high, have vision and big dreams; the second is to start from the bottom, get our hands dirty and know the people on the ground; third, have courage to pursue our dreams; finally, be dedicated and passionate about our mission.

The scene was set by the opening speeches of Tony Simpson, Minister for Youth for Western Australia and Matthew Cheung Kin-Chung, Secretary for Labour and Welfare from the Government of Hong Kong. The opening day was special because all the delegates were invited to dress in their national costumes. This gave us all the opportunity to admire the beauty of diversity and to increase our awareness of different cultures.

The first main and most interesting seminar of the day was delivered by Mr. Haoliang Xu, Assistant Secretary General, United Nations New York and Director for the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at the United Nations Development Programme. I found this talk particularly interesting because he mentioned the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, a policy area which I focused on during the recent Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Germany. He informed us that the final discussions on the SDGs have been finalised last week, and that they will be published in September this year. Given that the conclusion of my G7 policy brief was that there is a continued lack of governance and accountability mechanisms embedded in the goals, I took the opportunity to enquire Mr Xu’s opinion. His response indicated that compliance with the SDGs was a matter of self-commitment which reinforced my existing beliefs that it is highly unlikely that the SDGs will have a higher fulfilment rate than the MDGs.

The second seminar today was about living a purposeful life and was conducted by Dr. Rosanna Wong Executive Director of The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups. Her role in the organisation is to work with youth recovering from various addictions to empower and encourage them to build their capacity. Her passion and motivation made me reflect on the kind of work I aspire to do, and it reassured me that a job can be a source of personal fulfilment. It was also impressive to find out that while Hong Kong is a prosperous financial economic hub, it is also a very charitable city with 18% of the 7 million people population donating and volunteering, as well as being a hub of 23,000 NGOs and 6000 charities. Dr Wong defined the word ‘purposeful’ as such: when someone is prepared to make a contribution, do good, make a difference in others’ lives and give back to the community. Dr Wong’s talk was motivational, yet given her background in working for an NGO for over 40 years, there was a sense among delegates that there was a lack of criticism when she advised about volunteering and working for an NGO.

The overarching theme of the talks today was about thinking deeper about what our responsibilities as ‘future leaders of tomorrow’ are in society. We were encouraged to question the problems we see in the communities around us and to always think of solutions to solve them. In addressing the problems in our society, we were encouraged to reflect on leadership qualities such as patience, the ability to empathise and resonate with people, the ability to listen and finally, our capacity to be loving and compassionate towards others. Overall, the most poignant message of the day was that before we can lead others we have to learn to lead ourselves.

Follow #USLS2015 on Twitter for live updates.



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