Student leaders speaking at Niagara Falls conference

For Ryder Damen, it’s the small things that generate the biggest impact.

Inspired by the work of motivational speaker Drew Dudley, the third-year Biological Sciences student is redefining what it takes to be a leader.

“We often think of it as making a grand gesture or that it takes a certain kind of person to accomplish these big things,” Damen says, who will be a speaker at the Canadian Conference on Student Leadership (CCSL) from Thursday until Saturday.

Brock University and Niagara College will be co-hosting the 10-year anniversary conference at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, attracting leaders from across the country.

“As long as you’re encouraging others around you to be the best person they can be, you are a leader. All it takes is a simple act of kindness,” he adds.

These simple acts are what Damen refers to as passive leadership, something that is often discouraged and avoided. He sees it differently, however.

“It’s all about perfectly average people doing perfectly average things. If you’re influencing someone, if you’re making those small contributions to inspire others and if you’re completely genuine in the things you do, you are a passive leader,” he says.

“We put leadership on such a pedestal that people might be apprehensive to call themselves one, but by just being yourself, you’re making an impact on someone’s life,” he says.

As Damen looks forward to spending time with likeminded leaders, as well as students who aspire to be leaders, he stresses that leadership isn’t something to live up to, it’s all about doing.

“It’s all of the small things that make an impact. Don’t underestimate its power in changing you and others,” he says.

CCSL keynote speakers include Faculty of Education professor Dolana Mogadime and Brock alumnus Adam Shoalts (BA ’09).

For more information about CCSL, visit

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