What Is Leadership? A Recap From I-LEAD DC

4 minutes

What Is Leadership?

This is a question that 58 J-1 Interns from 29 different countries are contemplating at I-LEAD, a program of the U.S. Department of State, being held at American University in Washington, D.C. from May 15th - May 20th.

I-LEAD, the International Leadership Enrichment and Development Program, is an all-expenses paid, six-day program designed to refine and enhance leadership and intercultural communication skills and to expose participants to the ideas of entrepreneurship and community impact. All current J-1 Interns were invited to apply for the D.C. conference earlier this spring, and 58 lucky individuals were chosen to take part in this inaugural event. InterExchange is thrilled to announce that three of our own Interns were chosen for this great honor!

Surabhi, Jordan, and Kevin at #ILEADDC! #IEXCulture

A photo posted by InterExchange (@interexchange) on

  • Surabhi K., from India, came to the U.S in January and has been pursuing an internship in architecture in Kansas City, MO. She will be completing her program later this July.
  • Jordan Mitchel, from the U.K., arrived in the U.S. last September to pursue a year-long internship in Engineering in Butler, IN. He will complete his program later this fall.
  • Kevin D., from Ireland, also came to the U.S. in January and has been pursuing an internship in Business Management in Nampa, ID. He will soon complete his program in late June.

I had the privilege to participate in the first day of the I-LEAD conference, which focused on intercultural and leadership training. I-LEAD Interns participated in a morning workshop about culture and cultural dimensions, such as individualism vs. collectivism, low vs. high power distance, direct vs. indirect communication, and task vs. relationship orientation.

We were all asked to participate in various activities, and I paired up with a cohort from another sponsor organization, CENET, for one of the activities in which we had to hold one pen at the same time and draw a house together…without speaking! My teammate and I took turns with taking the lead on the drawing, but it was interesting to hear the interns talk about their various approaches—some also used turn-taking while others simply let their partners take the lead. One pair even drew two houses, as one of the interns grew up in a large city in Korea in which most people live in high-rise buildings. His concept of a house was very different than his drawing partner’s, and together they took turns guiding the drawing of a house as they each understand a house to look like according to their own culture.

Image courtesy of Lynne Sebeck

Later in the afternoon, the interns were asked to spend some time on their own contemplating their own experiences with leadership. Afterward, the interns worked in small groups to create a definition of leadership, which they were asked to creatively present to the other groups. Each group had slightly different ideas, but there were a lot of overlapping themes, as well.

Images courtesy of Lynne Sebeck

Throughout the rest of the week, the Interns will be lead through further workshops and collectively develop a definition of leadership with the I-LEAD staff and facilitators by the end of the week. They will also have an opportunity to meet with a D.C. incubator and seed fund to learn about startups and entrepreneurism and even begin to think about their own ideas and how to pitch their own ventures. Additionally, they will learn about civic engagement and social justice, and they will even spend half a day touring D.C. and learning about U.S. government.

Personally, I was incredibly impressed with and inspired by this amazing group of young people! They were respectful and insightful. They were constantly asking thoughtful questions and sharing touching and personal realizations they had while participating in some of the more introspective activities. These individuals are excited to take on the challenges that the rest of the week and the rest of their lives will present them, and I, for one, feel comforted to know that these are the future leaders of our world. With the work that they are sure to do moving forward, I know that our world is in good hands.

60 interns from 30 nations to share thoughts on #changemaking and #leadership

A photo posted by Surabhi Khanderia (@sweetsoul_1394) on

Do you want to participate in the next I-LEAD?

I hope that more of our current interns will have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by applying to participate in the next I-LEAD conference being held this August in Seattle. To be considered, current J-1 Interns need to apply by June 3rd. Applicants must be J-1 Interns with internships beginning no later than August 1, 2016 and ending no sooner than September 2, 2016. Finalists will be announced no later than June 27, 2016. For more information and to complete an application, visit the I-LEAD website.

Good luck!

Lynne Sebeck Lynne Sebeck

Lynne, a seasoned traveler and professional sailor, has been helping students and young adults reach their full career potential for more than 10 years as the Program Director for Career Training USA.

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