We learn about leadership in many ways in SMU— in practice as we lead our student clubs, teams or projects, or through frameworks and concepts in the classroom.

While there may not be much literature on “accidental leadership”, we can surely learn a lot from Eunice Olsen’s personal experiences and philosophy as a leader and entrepreneur.

Eunice shared her story as the plenary speaker at the 2015 SMU Leadership Symposium. As a humanitarian, media personality and entrepreneur, she is currently helming several projects including womentalk tv, a web series featuring the stories of Asian women who inspire and empower.

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Never too far away.. is Eunice’s mini-piano! She treats us to an instrumental version of “Hello” by Adele.

Find your own voice. This was my first real step I took in developing as a leader. That’s why I love music so much. In music, I can find my own interpretation of classic and iconic songs, and create something new. I began to find more purpose in what I studying during my university days. Learning about political science and philosophy, I was challenged to develop an opinion, and find meaning and purpose in my education.

I made sure to open myself up to new possibilities and opportunities. Don’t be restricted by what you’ve studied or what others may say. When I recently interviewed Alvina Neo, a Singapore para-athlete, she told me that “you may not be able to do ten things in life, but do not close yourself off to the million things you can.” I believe that applies to what I am currently doing. I’d never expected that I would be in the media industry, but now I am shooting womentalk tv, developing a new travel program and building up my business.

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Each work of art on Eunice’s wall is by an artist with special needs, an inspiring and uplifting reminder that life’s worth celebrating, for all of us.

Being open naturally led into finding my sense of purpose. My passion lies in community work and uncovering inspiring stories of women in Asia, which I get to do through womentalk tv. I feel like I am a part of something bigger. Our talk show is a conduit for these stories that need to be told. Even though we are lending a voice to these amazing women, I always emerge feeling and knowing that I’ve gained so much from the experience— This is what drives me every single day.

There’s always something to learn in every experience, especially with setbacks (and they’re bound to come). During my stint as a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP), I faced many challenges and the toughest of all was managing public perception. I had never experienced anything like it before. My parents reminded me that I had a choice: I could either press on because I believed in the good that I could do as an NMP, or simply not do it. For me, the decision was clear. I dug in, did my best and let the work speak for itself.

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I’d call myself an “accidental leader” because I became a leader out from necessity. I learned quickly that one key ingredient to being a great leader is authenticity. It’s about who you are as a person first, and then as a leader and the values you aspire to uphold.

It’s crucial to me that you are humble and have respect for others. Every member of our team understands this. We all have our own areas of expertise and personal experiences. During the time we have, I’ll do my best to develop their potential— to bring out our team members’ strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses. You can only do this if you’re humble and willing to learn.

I know there’s still much I need to learn, and I am always learning from members of our team and the people I work with. It is about admitting that there are things I do not know. More than that, I am committed to learn, grow and improve. At the end of the day, leadership is all about practice.

You may not be the best leader, but is important to always aspire to be a better leader than you were yesterday.
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In young leaders, I look for the right attitude. You have to take pride in your work. This applies especially for interns who join us. At eighteen years old, I cannot expect you to have a wealth of experience and have won many awards. Instead, I value great attitude over a glowing resume. Young leaders must work hard and work smart.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be adaptable. Build yourself up so that you create value, benefit and good for your team and those you’re helping. That’s how you make yourself indispensable.

You’ll find that you will make many mistakes along the way. The important thing is to just keep going. Looking back, that’s my story. I’m sure you’ll have yours to share with others in the future as well.

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Check out Eunice’s work on womenfolk tv, an interview series featuring incredible women from Asia with compelling and powerful stories that empower and inspire. From paralympians to rape survivors, human rights activists to entrepreneurs, womenfolk tv is a portal where people can speak honestly, get involved and make a difference.

Learn from some of Singapore’s top leaders and meet like-minded students at the SMU Leadership Symposium. Held annually, the SMU Leadership Symposium brings together student leaders from universities, polytechnics and junior colleges all over Singapore to meet, connect and learn more about leadership. Find out more here.

© 2018 Snapshots by SMU