They say that leadership is a skill, a test of character, a test of poise under pressure; combining knowledge with experience and the ability to take difficult decisions and stand by one’s opinions to defend it. These are the qualities that make great leaders and these were the qualities that were on display at the 2018 edition of the Hill Top Leadership Challenge.
A long running event at the Hill Top School in Jamshedpur, the Leadership Challenge is an exhibition of the best students in the area pitting their wits against one another and showcasing the qualities that would make them future leaders. This year was no different, with 46 participants from 20+ schools from Jamshedpur and the surrounding areas including Ranchi, fighting it out through a gruelling set of group discussions and finals.
Over the course of the six group discussions, the kids debated over a variety of topics ranging from generationally-relevant ones like ‘Facebook vs Fakebook’ and ‘Going Viral vs Having Talent’, to more controversial topics such as ‘Men are good workers; women are good managers’. Over the course of the group discussions, the participants were judged on their ability to put their points across, their ability to deal with the pressure and stand out among a crowded group and make their voices heard. 17 extremely well-read and well-informed participants sailed through the group discussions; their knowledge, articulation and poise enabling them to rise to the top.
Image: The stage set for the group discussions
Prior to the personal interview, the selected participants were given words which generally have negative connotations and were expected to present five positive statements in defence of the word. The personal interviews were a gruelling test, with noted hosts Rashmi Furtado and Palak Kumar pushing the participants to showcase their real self and testing their ability to handle queries and defend their points under pressure. The participants, aged between 15-16 years, showcased wisdom and a level of maturity greater than their years, and ended up wowing the judges. However, not everyone could make it; out of 17, only eight would end up making it to the finals. The eight finalists were Ayati Mishra of Hill Top School, Parth Chatterjee from Narbheram Hansraj School, Vaibhav Singh from Rajendra Vidyalaya, Rashmi Singh from Sacred Heart Convent, Agnidh Ghosh of Loyola School, Romit Bose of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, G.S. Vishnu from Little Flower School and Smriti Sultana of Delhi Public School who had travelled all the way from Ranchi just to be a part of this event.
Image: A participant during the personal interview round
The overall theme of the event was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s fantasy masterpiece, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, with the stage décor and elements designed to transport the audience into Wonderland. However, for the eight participants on stage, it was literally like they had been transported into the court of the Queen of Hearts; every minute was crucial, every answer an advantage they had to seize. Seize they did; from the opening round, the proceedings were feisty. Charged with introducing themselves in the form of a twitter bio, the participants’ creative thinking was on display, with some unconventional introductions. These students were introducing themselves to some eminent personalities with the Who’s Who of Jamshedpur being in attendance, but as a mark of the fearlessness of youth, each participant showed no sign of nerves and the competition was very much on.
In the second round, ‘You Know What’, a pre-determined topic was given to the participants and they had to present their thoughts on the same. Far from the usual format of preparing a simple speech and presenting it, one participant made a poem to present their topic, while another presented their topic through the lens of current affairs. Two rounds in, and the judges knew that they were going to have a difficult time deciding the winner. In Round 3, a debate on ‘Whether Statues Serve a Purpose’ got quite heated, requiring the judges and hosts to intervene, while the topic, ‘Extreme Feminism is Harmful’ was conducted in a group-discussion style.
Round 4 tested the participants’ ability to deal with pressing issues in the world and allowed them to truly showcase themselves as leaders. Created in the style of a Model United Nations session, participants teamed up as countries with pressing issues such as the Land Mines in Cambodia, the Drought in South Africa, Sponsored Terrorism in Syria, and presented why their nation’s crisis needed to be taken up as an agenda at the United Nations.
Image: The eight finalists of the Hill Top Leadership Challenge 2018, with host Rashmi Furtado (left) and Ms. Puneetha Chouhan (right), the Principal of Hill Top School, Jamshedpur.
The final round allowed the judges to directly interact with the participants and test their personalities; from questions about their lives and interests, to abstract questions which could potentially stump a leader but also provide an insight into their way of thinking. The judges used this round to be able to come to what was clearly not going to be an easy decision.
We all know that not everybody can win. At the end of the night, out of the eight, four walked away with prizes. Ayati Mishra from Hill Top School, making full use of home advantage, emerged as the clear-cut winner, while Agnidh Ghosh from Loyola School was the First Runner-up. Romit Bose of Chinmaya Vidyalaya shared the position of the Second Runner-up with Smriti Sultania whose trip from Ranchi had ended in success.
Congratulations, young leaders! The future is bright. The future is yours!