Not Strangers Anymore

Please discuss in detail a situation or an event that demonstrates your effectiveness as a leader, and how that situation or event has shaped your conception of leadership. Be as specific as possible.

My eyes slowly closed to the last chords of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” fading from Mr. Connell’s guitar. It was the first night, and the day had been hectic, but things were going as planned. I looked around the cozy room and saw my classmates sprawled on couches and the floor, most of them already stepping outside their prescribed social barriers. It was time those walls came down. After weeks of preparation and almost cult-like secrecy, this was the senior Kairos Retreat—a four day spiritual high in the woods of Toccoa, Georgia.

Many people have asked me what the Kairos secret is, and I tell them I can’t explain it. Okay, so there actually are some tangible secrets, but those aren’t what “make” the retreat. The real secret is that after only a few hours, I talked honestly about private matters I wouldn’t normally share: childhood in China, my sister Ali’s baby years, and a rather non-communicational relationship with my parents. Perhaps that wouldn’t sound strange with close friends, but at the leaders’ retreat, a mini-Kairos lasting thirteen straight hours, the other student leaders weren’t people I knew well at all. I saw them in the halls and occasionally we chatted, but while they had classes together and hung out...

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