11.14.17 Org“Strengthen Your Strengths”: Dux Leadership Center’s StrengthsFinder Leadership Conference By Shelby Imes With an itinerary chock-full of speakers, breakout sessions, and even bingo, the 7th semi-annual StrengthsFinder Leadership Conference went off without a hitch in the Madison Union Ballroom on November 4th, 2017. Hosted by the Dux Leadership Center and run entirely by student employees, the afternoon-long conference encouraged attendees to “strengthen [their] strengths” and focus on becoming an even better version of themselves. Kicking off the conference was 6-time keynote speaker Michael McCleve to give attendees a taste of the StrengthsFinder philosophy. Contrary to the popular belief that improving our weaknesses is the key to success, McCleve emphasized that “[success] is not going to come from fixing what’s wrong with you.” “You’re capable of doing something that no one else can, and in a way that no one else would ever do it,” he said during his speech. “Your path to success and excellence is going to come from your strengths.” After McCleve’s thought-provoking speech, attendees did some individual and group reflection, then dispersed into breakout sessions where they could get into the nitty-gritty of “strengthening their strengths.” Students had three specified strength-building breakout sessions to choose from: strength in groups, strength in relationships, and strength in careers. Before being accepted into the conference, students are required to take Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment to narrow down their top five strong suits. These strengths fall somewhere on a spectrum including four themes of strategic thinking, relationship building, executing, and influencing. Students proudly don these strengths on their nametags for all at the conference to see. Finding out these strengths beforehand helps attendees like sophomore nursing major Mabinty Sesay, who attended the strength in relationships breakout session, enhance their StrengthsFinder experience. After specifying her own strengths, the strength in relationships breakout sessions helped her narrow down compatible strengths she could find in a friend or partner. “I just found that interesting– interacting with other people, seeing their strengths and some strengths that I would like to have that I admire about them,” she said. “We can [reach] our full potential with what we have.” Junior accounting major Jessi Heavenridge attended the strength in careers session, where she was able to practice job interviews along with applying her strengths to her future field. “You might have known what you were good at, but now there’s actually a word to put to it to help you sell yourself in interviews,” said Heavenridge. Two of her strengths were her ability to empathize and be deliberate– when collaborating with other people at the conference who have the same strengths, Heavenridge was still able to appreciate the uniqueness of her own abilities. “You can have the same strength as someone, but you viewed it very differently. You can view it in a complete opposite way.” To wrap up the conference, students broke into groups of people with similar strengths to share their experiences at the conference. Some even exchanged information and made some new friends along the way. “Being JMU students, we’re all struggling right now,” said Mabinty Sesay. “Loosening each other up and giving each other motivation– that was cool.” As it is a transformative experience for all who attend, the StrengthsFinder Leadership Conference is a hidden treasure in Madison Union from the Dux Leadership center. The student director of this past event, Matthew Harrell, said that increased attendance has been promising. “All too often, people, especially college students, don’t think that they’re leaders at all,” said Harrell. “This conference is here to show you that everybody is a leader in their own way.” If you are interested in signing up for next semester’s StrengthFinders Leadership Conference, head over to jmu.edu/dux/ for more information.