Meet the Wilson Leaders
My vision of a leader is someone who does not accept complacency as an option. I believe that leaders are role models who relentlessly adjust, reflect and strive to improve in every area of their life. I admire individuals who are intrinsically motivated to become the best version of themselves and are not deterred by any obstacles in their way.
Over the past four summers, I have had the chance to be surrounded by individuals who possess these exact qualities. My first summer at McMaster Sport Fitness School was back in 2013, and I would have never expected this sports camp to impact me the way it has. Not only was I surrounded by individuals who made me a better person, but I began to see myself in a whole new light. I have all my co-workers at this camp to thank for this transformation. I believe this camp is a community where individuals can grow, develop and truly make a change in each and every camper’s life. The magical moments that happen when passing a football with a camper, challenging athletes to persevere during a difficult running race, or having a meaningful conversation with a child who is having a hard day, are life changing for both the coach and the camper. These examples are not only valuable moments in each child’s life, but also a source of power to improve upon each coaches leadership skills.
The mission statement at McMaster Sport Fitness School is “Development for Sport, Development for Life,” which is upheld in all of the camps programming. However, this statement truly embodies my experience and journey as a staff member over the years. The commitment to building a positive and inclusive environment is demonstrated daily by staff members, who were my role models. These individuals welcomed me to this family with open arms, showed me the ropes as a young leader and mentored me to where I am today; a part of the Wilson Leadership program.
As my journey in leadership continues I cannot help to reflect upon my four summers at camp. Sport Fitness School has shaped and developed my life in a direction that I am motivated to embark on. My experiences and self-development have inspired me to continue to strive to become a leader who believes in the development of others by teaching, supporting, and challenging individuals to become the best versions of themselves. A leader is one that is continuously self-reflective and is relentlessly motivated to become successful. He or she is a role model who inspires others by their resiliency and unwavering dedication to strive towards a common goal in order to achieve a wholesome success.
It is within communities and teams that I believe people grow the most. For my future, I strive to be a leader who can create environments that exude such positivity and lifelong learning whether in my passion for health care, healthy active living, and any team environment that I can make an impact. I hope to give back to communities to make Canada an even better place to live.
With a seemingly confident smile, I hold up a shiny loonie in my pincer grip, announcing, “I’m going to make this coin disappear!” Instantly, the audience’s logic and their doubtful eyes pierce into the coin. Despite the fear of failure and embarrassment, I reassure myself, “Don’t worry, you’ve practiced.” With my innocent charisma, I communicate, and their skepticism transforms into gullibility. Then, the coin is transferred to my left palm, and is clenched tightly, fully sealing the coin. Sweaty palms and shaky hands are hidden under my poker face.
I, like most of the audience, naïvely believed that the trick was swift and seemingly effortless, something that could be done with a little bit of practice. I was stupefied. Behind the curtains, my hands were covered in thick, ugly calluses from hours of practicing every single sleight of hand vital for flawless execution. Even with a degree of diligence, repetition often left me in exhaustion. I was frustrated. There have been numerous times when I felt like smashing the deck of cards and coins against the wall. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it—I was completely absorbed. As a result, the hours of effort and sleepless nights that I put into practicing did not seem like a waste of time; my discomfort was easily overridden by the delight of learning—making “magic.” The welcoming experience of connecting with people by sharing my talents motivated me to push my creativity further through the pursuit and cultivation of other art forms, like cello or photography. Parallel to a magic trick, in every aspect of my life, I have learned not to be boastful by telling the audience how good I am, but rather have them judge for themselves based on my final performance.
Magic evolved into something more than just a hobby; it kindled a new outlook for me on the importance of leading others to find the ways in which they can make magic. My goal was not just to focus on surprising people by carefully executing a trick without a mistake, but also to communicate with people about my ideas, emotions, and energy. Even when my small mistakes led to the failure of a magic trick, I learned not to mask my mistakes in hopes of depicting perfection, but to leave myself open for others to realize that there is always room for improvement and that not even a magician can fully conceal himself. Because, who am I trying to fool? I am no Harry Potter. I am just a boy, fully aware of my imperfections. Thus, I try my best to perfect myself under the curtain of humility in the anticipation for the next performance, constantly pushing myself to lead and challenge despite the fear of failure, and to share and inspire what has shaped me today.
And one by one, my fingers flare open, and the anticipating faces of the elderly patients spark up in astonishment by the absence of the coin; slowly, it seems as if the dimmed room is lighting up, and there are colours on people's faces.
It was the day of the final interview for the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award. The selection committee took turns asking me questions or trying to dig deeper into my previous answer. In the third chair on left side of the table, in a tailored suit with a maroon McMaster tie, sat Dr. Red Wilson. Not only is he a widely recognized Canadian philanthropist, he is also one of the most esteemed, trusted and successful leaders in the history of our School. I was thrilled to not only be in his presence but to be able to see first-hand just how someone of his success carries themselves. Interestingly, when it was Dr. Wilson, the Founder of the Award’s turn to ask something, he would pass. Throughout the whole hour and a half interview, he said nothing, he asked me nothing, he just listened. As everyone around him asked me questions, I was fascinated by his ability to listen and process what was being said. It wasn’t until the end of the interview when he spoke. He then said 12 words that have changed my outlook on leadership, collaboration and equality. He said:
“A leader is the last voice in a room full of equals.”
Dr. Wilson taught me that a leader is the one who listens, welcomes collaboration, who forms their thoughts and opinions with a sense of equality, and ultimately finds the right opportunity communicate them. A leader is an individual that can say nothing, but give you the strength to move mountains. This is Dr. Red Wilson and the 12 words he shared with me have changed my outlook on leadership forever. It was through this experience as well as self reflection and goal setting that I have crafted a personal leadership statement in which I hope to embody. My leadership statement is:
“To be a leader and an individual who through confidence, clarity and integrity can lead in a progressive and collaborative way. To be the trusted leader in a room full of equals by displaying my tireless effort to succeed and find ways to excel together. To be the support and strength to allow others to feel safe and confident to tackle adversity and tasks as a unified group.”
For as long as I live, I will not forget what Dr. Red Wilson taught me. I will think about it every day and find new meanings to this simple sentence. I will share it with my family, my teammates, my colleagues and ultimately my kids one day. I will tell them the story of how one individual taught me a powerful leadership lesson in only 12 words. He not only taught me about what it is to be a leader, but also influenced and clarified the leader I hope to become.
Dr. Wilson, thank you.