What Inspires You?

Imagine a leader. In your head. Or draw it out on paper. Describe them. Is this person a man? Or is this person a woman?

For me, that person is a woman. A woman who is extremely knowledgeable in her field. One who leads by example, and one who makes a difference in people’s lives.  I would like to celebrate the success of one of my professors who has shown us what it means to be a leader, and what a good leader is capable of.

Marilyn Laiken, PhD, has accumulated numerous accomplishments throughout her career. She has been serving consulting clients since 1975, and is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). In fact, she was the Chair of the Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology at OISE, and is still the Director of the Certificate Programs in Adult Training and Development, and Leadership Coaching for the Workplace. Marilyn has published numerous journal papers and authored several books, including “The Anatomy of High Performing Teams: A Leader’s Handbook”.

Despite all her success and accomplishments, many of which are not listed here, she is an ordinary woman who is not so ordinary in her own ways. She showed all of us that women can be great leaders. I can say that of all the teachers I have had throughout the years, she has had the greatest impact on me.

I had the fortunate experience of being in one of her classes last year, and it was an extremely memorable experience. Each and every single one of us in her class learned a lot about ourselves and each other. With Marilyn’s help we learned how to work through problems together. We also learned how to make ourselves become a better leader.

Marilyn was so calm and so patient with everything and everyone. She would always make sure each of us was comfortable, right down to the tiniest detail, such as food preferences. She led by example the entire time and taught us the gracious way to handle problems and find solutions. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Every person’s picture of a leader is different. To me, the greatest quality of a leader is being able to inspire others. Inspiring is defined as “to prompt or instigate by influence, without avowal of responsibility”. And Marilyn does exactly that. She naturally fills her students with a feeling of trust and confidence.

I know this because I’m not the only one who thought so. As one of my classmates, Sharon, said, “Marilyn Laiken is an inspirational role model: she encouraged her students to be open, patient and respectful with each other, and she exhibited those very qualities in every class and in all correspondences. She is a teacher who practices what she preaches, someone who truly exemplifies what a good leader and role model should be.”

There are a lot of things Marilyn can be called: a great mother, a great Department Chair, and a great Director. The list goes on. But to me, and many of us, she is a great teacher, and most of all, a great leader.

Thank you, Marilyn, for making our classroom a peaceful and growth enhancing place.

Written by Queenie Cheung
Edited by Lucinda Atwood

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