Walk-in. Hot room. PowerPoint up. ‘What makes a good leader?’ The organiser gets straight into the content as I sweat in my seat. I begin to interact, resigning to the fact that this will be another leadership seminar assessing good qualities of the great names we have learned to love or hate. Before I can get comfortable criticising someone else’s qualities, I am asked to assess myself.

Suddenly the comfort I was experiencing previously vanishes. ‘My own qualities?’ I think to myself. Self-reflection? It’s not easy criticising yourself, but that’s what the workshop demands – for participants to forget ‘easy’. ‘You can’t learn in your comfort zone’. The morning session contained continuous self-reflection, encouraging participants to embrace the ‘danger zone’.

The afternoon session shifted towards considering leadership qualities in terms of ‘emotional intelligence’, further challenging us to assess our own situated biases, positionalities and emotions in different situations. Building on the work of Daniel Goleman, we came to realise that ‘the more you know, the more you realise what you don’t know’.

Taking this on board, self-awareness, emotional management, empathy and motivation emerged as pivotal skills and attitudes, which potential future leaders must develop if they are to truly represent their constituents and communities.

Written by John Lewis and Jeevun Rohilla.