Leadership at NIFT

At NIFT, we start our program ‘Leadership’ with storytelling and the impact of this circle of sharing compels me to share with readers of our blog why we need more of this. In this year’s circle we had 23 students – most of whom are in their first year of college and a few are in the first year of masters. Rather than introduce themselves in the usual way about their family background, ambitions etc, we ask the students to share lives ups and downs by way of drawing a river on a piece of paper and then on one bank of the river they write high points and on the other bank they write low points of their life.

Once they are done with this, we get them to sit in a circle and begin sharing. In this year’s class, we were given a classroom with desks and this lecture hall seating defeats the spirit of listening and sharing. I firmly believe that if doctors removed their table and met us without any barrier in between the diagnosis rate would improve! If corporate meetings were done without the board room table, the dialogues would be more effective! And so, even though we only had a 20 feet by 6 feet space and students said that they wouldn’t fit in this space, we did. A good lesson in leadership for the students right away was that ‘Never say no’ and manage with the resources that you have, rather than changing the path that you know is successful.

This circle of sharing brings about beautiful revelations about each participant. It leaves the participant feeling lighter – as one person said ‘a load off my shoulders’…they probably share things that no one has encouraged them to speak about earlier. It leaves the audience spell bound – the charm of storytelling weaves its magic as each participant shares their stories. You can see false barriers break down, masks come off and the realization that ‘I am not alone’ dawn on their faces.

It’s amazing to hear the stories that 18 year olds are talking about nowadays. Some used the words ‘toxic relationships’, one spoke about being molested, most spoke (with mock lightness) about teenage heart breaks and parental pressure. It makes me think about the patterns that this generation is going through and how they are choosing to cope. What strikes me is how they overcome this and move on bravely. Their way of expressing these set-backs without breaking down and allowing themselves and others to laugh at their mistakes is something we can all learn from. 

Their achievements leave me awed…an internship in the national museum that made someone realise what she wants to do design, a little champs audition and award, rank holders in national level competitive exams and getting into NIFT. Talking about these achievements builds confidence almost instantly – because we don’t really take the time to even stop and think about them, forget talk about them. When people share their achievements its also interesting to see the reactions of others – they begin to understand that its true that we should never judge a book by its cover!

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