LEWISBURG, Pa. -- For the sixth year in a row, the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute sent a group of student-athletes to the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference in Annapolis, Md. The Academy hosts his prestigious conference annually and extends an invitation for delegates from their peer institutions in the Patriot League, ROTC programs across the country, and many formal leadership education programs embedded in universities and military academies across the globe. The 300 delegates participate alongside selected midshipmen in various lectures, presentations, and small-group discussions. This year's theme is "Breaking Barriers: Obstacles as Opportunities." 

Bucknell head field hockey coach Jeremy Cook attended this year's conference along with student-athletes Celeste Barker (volleyball), Emily Finn (field hockey) and Tyler Peterson (men's soccer), as well as student Nancy Ingabire Abayo from the Bucknell ILTM program. 

Each of the students was asked to provide some insight into the speaker or idea that most resonated with them over the course of the first day. Below are their responses.

Emily Finn
One of my biggest takeaways from the Leadership Conference was from the discussion/Q&A with Ms. Michèle Flournoy. Michèle Flournoy is the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2009-2012, and is the co-founder and managing director of WestExec Advisors. During the discussion, Ms. Flournoy talked about diversity and mentoring. She said that the more diversity there is in an organization or team, the more perspectives it gets, and the more successful it will be, and I completely agree with this. Another thing she said that had me thinking was that there is less diversity in higher ranks because leaders tend to mentor people much like themselves, they mentor "mini-mes". Her discussion points made me realize that I may have done this unintentionally, and that this can be changed by simply challenging the norms and reaching out to someone different then you to be your mentor. It is a point that I will carry with me, and that I believe will help me become more successful, as well as help mentor and lead others.

Tyler Peterson
Monday afternoon we had the privilege of listening to Simon Sinek, an established author and motivational speaker, talk about the ideology of companies and competitors. He characterized competitors or leaders as either being finite or infinite, with no in between. Those that are finite look at a competition as either a win or a loss, while infinite competitors look at a competition as a process with no winner or loser, and are frankly just trying to survive. Sinek encouraged us to become infinite competitors and leaders, pointing out to all of us that there is no end to being a leader. We must constantly work at becoming better leaders every day. To further illustrate this point, Sinek drew the comparison to lifting weights. If you go out and lift weights for nine hours straight one day, not only will you become very burned out and tired, but you will also see no progress. However, if you keep putting in work every day, then eventually, no matter how long it'll take, you will in fact make progress. Lastly, Sinek stated that in order to grow as a leader and a person, we must start craving negative feedback. Sinek attributes all of his success to the negative feedback that he has received throughout his life for these are the only times that he actually has learned. He challenged us, that even though it will be uncomfortable, to seek out this feedback. In turn if all of us can start craving this feedback, then we will be able to grow as people and help our respective teams here at Bucknell that much more.

Nancy Ingabire Abayo
From reflecting on today’s and yesterday’s panel discussions and keynote speakers, I felt the urge to analyze myself as a leader and how I can better myself. So far one phrase that stuck out to me was “glad to be here” as echoed by Commander John Foley. It is reminder to be grateful for what we have starting from what we call little things in our lives. These words shape my takeaways from this conference and give more value to everything else I witnessed at this conference. The panel about “challenging the status quo” was also a reminder that it is important to consider a leader as the tip of an inverted pyramid where they have to carry the weight of everyone unless they develop trust in their peers, and that way some weight will be taken off of the leader, and he or she will be able to value others’ opinions and work better with them. In addition to this I had a slightly different experience as an international student. As a Rwandan citizen, I get asked questions about the 1994 genocide against Tutsis countless times, especially since the time I set foot on the U.S. soil. As sensitive a subject as it is to me and most Rwandans, I could not ignore the fact that it was brought up today during of the panels. It was surprising to hear someone pose the same question that go through many Rwandans’ heads about the reasons why the US and UN did not do anything about it. As a follow up when the former US Secretary of state and ambassador to the UN, Honorable Madeleine Albright was asked with her panel members on the forrestal panel, if they had a regret from the period they served on the government, and her first answer was “Rwanda”, as she explained that something could have been done to stop it, yet nothing was done. I can’t place an exact sentiment, but it surely helped that someone cared enough to ask such questions. I am indeed glad to be here as I appreciated the fact that many people from around the world come together showing care and compassion for different nations around the world, and seeking to develop ways to better our world.

Celeste Barker
Through the many panel discussions that we heard, the one that stuck out to me the most was the “Leading Through Adversity” Panel. On the panel was Admiral Frank Morneau, Captain Jerry Linenger, Ms. Christine Wormuth, and Lieutenant Brad Snyder. There were many questions that they discussed, including “How did you find a way to motivate your team through adversity?” Lieutenant Snyder's answer was very in line with my experience on the Bucknell volleyball team and our mission towards establishing a new culture. He stated that “there is equal value in success and in failure... When you and your team have failed, you need to ask yourselves ‘what’s next?’ ” He addressed the concept of self-responsibility, and not looking at yourself as a victim after a failure. Instead you need to take responsibility and learn from it, so that you can make the necessary changes to ensure success in the future. This past season, we focused a lot on self accountability and reflecting on the things that we can change from one game to the next, win or lose, in order to continue to grow as a team towards our common goal. He [Snyder] said that there is no such thing as a perfect performance, and even if you think you performed well, there is always something that you can improve on. From my experiences with BUVB, I have learned that even if we won, there is always something we can improve on, and that win or lose, you can learn something important from both that will propel you towards “what’s next?” It is my hope that, even though I am graduating and will not be returning next season, that my team continues to pursue the ideas proposed by Lieutenant Snyder in practicing self responsibility and focusing on the lessons to be learned from both failures and successes.