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Social emotional learning and how this can contribute to leadership

Madeleine Conroy, Bachelor of Arts - Psychology with the degree of Bachelor of Education (Primary)

Leadership - a word that used to make me very nervous. Without you knowing it, you are a leader in numerous areas of your life right now.

A bit about me - I am the eldest of 4 children and definitely play the role of 'second mum', I am about to graduate from a teaching & psychology degree, where I will be guiding over 25 children, and I am a netball coach, where I instruct and take care of two teams. Now, being a leader doesn't just mean the dictionary definition of "the action of leading a group of people". It encompasses actions such as caring, listening, inspiring, understanding, motivating, expressing ideas, and accomplishing.

I have just completed my PACE placement, working alongside a School Psychologist, where we focused on early intervention targeting social and emotional wellbeing in Kindergarteners. Teaching the concepts of recognising and responding to emotions made me realise that these skills need to be shared more widely as I have seen some adults struggle with this too. As a teacher, I am a role model and I reflected on the fact that I will need to display good social emotional qualities when in front of my class. A dysregulated adult can never help a dysregulated child in crisis. When emotions are high, it can be difficult to reign them in.

Some tips that I have learnt along the way in my career and university degree, is that sometimes you need to take a pause and count to ten to ground yourself, then seek out the why. There is always a reason for a behaviour. This made me think across the areas of my life and how all leaders need these qualities in order to be successful. To be a successful leader in this current climate, emotional intelligence and competencies are key. Studies have found that leaders with high emotional competencies are perceived as more efficient by their followers. This is because a leader can understand the atmosphere of the workplace and respond appropriately. They can also read situations well, especially times of conflict, and speak honestly to resolve any issues.

At the heart of social awareness is empathy. Empathy explains the understanding of the emotional and logic that goes into every decision. Leaders who have this level of awareness, and empathise with others, are able to adapt, persuade and motivate others to achieve greater results. They seek their colleague's feelings and perspectives so that they can communicate and collaborate more effectively as a group. The only way you can learn how to do this is by practicing and engaging in various experiences throughout your life. As a young adult, the world is your oyster and there isn’t a better time to start but now.

If I am being completely honest and reflecting on the choices I have made in my adult life, my first year at Macquarie University involved completing my units and focusing mainly on making friends. I am now in my final semester of my double degree and slightly regret not pursuing extracurricular activities earlier on. Not just for my university experience, but also for my employability and confidence in leading within a future workplace. Once I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and found new areas of interest and was able to:

  • Participate in the Leap Up Mentor Program

  • Volunteer as a lifeguard

  • Finish courses alongside my degree in sign language and social cultural learning

  • Complete the Global Leadership Program with Merit

I feel prepared for the workplace and confident enough to be myself and understand that you are always learning. So, I recommend you back yourself and do the same. Throw yourself in there as early as possible and keep showing up, as your future needs you to!


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