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October 2003

6th Annual Business Council Leadership Conference

American Express Tax & Business Services and Deloitte & Touche sponsored the 2003 Business Council Leadership Conference held at the Illini Union in early October. The event, which was open to College of Business undergraduates, included presentations by professionals from both sponsors and interactive breakout sessions that further developed leadership skills. More than 75 students participated.

The day began with a presentation by Thomas Rosenfeld, managing director in the National Real Estate Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. Rosenfeld spoke about what leadership is and how to develop individual leadership skills. He stressed that the definition of leadership could not be found in a textbook. According to Rosenfeld, in order to become a leader, you must assess who you are and what is important to you. As an exercise, he had participants create a list of goals they wanted to achieve at the conference. He later distributed a handout entitled "What's Your Calling?" that helped students decipher what activities excite and compel them to do their best. Rosenfeld's oration was an ideal beginning to the day of self-exploration.

The afternoon keynote speaker was Michael J. Lullo, an audit partner from Deloitte & Touche's Chicago office. Lullo was running an employee-training seminar in Scottsdale, Arizona, on September 11, 2001 when terrorists hijacked two planes and destroyed the World Trade Center. He discussed what he did in this situation, what leadership skills were evident in his actions, and why people trusted him. His presentation also included a discussion of how Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and other events have negatively affected the accounting industry. He spoke about what leadership skills are necessary to recover from this time of criticism and doubt. Lullo expects that the accounting profession can one day again be viewed as an honorable industry. He believes that the generation of students attending the conference can make that dream a reality. To the satisfaction of the room full of Cubs fans, and quoting Dusty Baker, he asked, "Why not us?"

After the morning keynote, students proceeded to breakout sessions. Each of the sponsors coordinated and staffed two breakout sessions.

American Express Breakout Sessions

American Express Leadership Session.AmEx focused on working together in teams to complete a task. The first session involved blindfolding the entire team and having them figure out what two puzzle pieces were missing from the table by using their other senses and communicating with each other. This obstacle taught, for example, that not every team member could talk at the same time or nothing would get accomplished. Solving the puzzle required listening to each other and speaking up. Furthermore, it took a trustworthy leader and a strategy to reach the final goal.

The next session created a scenario where a plane crashed in the desert. Participants were given a list of items salvaged from the plane and had to rank these items according to their order of importance in their survival. The attendees first completed this activity on their own and then completed it as a team. This session demonstrated that people working together in a team could accomplish more than an individual.

Deloitte & Touche Breakout Sessions

Deloitte & Touche Leadership Session.Deloitte & Touche focused on having participants learn more about themselves. One activity involved having each individual create a timeline of personal and professional achievements. D&T expanded this timeline by asking attendees to think of what personal and professional accomplishments they hoped to achieve in the rest of their lives. Often students think of the future as just the next few years, not long-term. The D&T session challenged and enlightened students.

D&T's second session involved completing a Value-Based Self-Assessment. It helped clarify each individual's values so they could make career decisions that are consistent with their priorities and beliefs. It also helped students decide what values and characteristics to look for in companies when searching for a career.

Wrapping Up

The day concluded with a few closing remarks from the sponsors, along with final words from Katie Fruhauff, Business Council Leadership Conference Chairperson, and Allison Beck, Business Council President. Attendees agreed the day was a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

--Erin Viner
  Leadership Conference Committee