As soon as he set foot at the FRED Forum, second-year BCom student Christopher Heathcote-Rey knew he wasn’t at an ordinary conference.

“At first, I was a bit lost. But then a top exec from McDonald’s came up to me, saying ‘Hi Christopher, nice to see you here, let me introduce you to some people,” Heathcote-Rey says. “And everyone was like that. They knew I was the student there, a bit of an outsider, and yet they made me feel like part of the family. Everybody was on the same level there.”

The FRED Forum brings together leading innovators and top executives to explore fresh perspectives on leadership. It’s a prestigious, invitation-only event, but Heathcote-Rey was selected to represent Sauder students, as the international conference’s 2014 edition was held in Vancouver in conjunction with Executive Education at the Sauder School of Business.

Sauder is also among a select group of international business schools on the FRED ScholarsSM roster, offering scholarships for an Executive Education leadership intensive to non-profit leaders that otherwise couldn’t afford such high-level business training.

“We were extremely pleased to deepen our relationship with FRED by helping present this important conference in Vancouver that brings together leaders from the corporate world with those from the government, social enterprise and non-profit sectors.” says Bruce Wiesner, Associate Dean for Executive Education at Sauder. “By drawing together leading edge thinkers from around the globe, we were able to act as a catalyst for real learning and capacity building for leadership in our community and beyond.”

FRED is an independent non-profit dedicated to elevating the quality of leadership in the world. Their mission is to inspire leaders to achieve organizational excellence and contribute to the health and vitality of their communities and global society.

The annual FRED Forum is an ideas and action incubator that pushes attendees to explore new thinking and provides highly immersive experiences designed to evolve and expand leadership and executive development.

At this year’s Forum, the speakers all had unique lessons to share. Heathcote-Rey says he felt especially connected with the words of David Labistour, the CEO of Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op. Like Heathcote-Rey, Labistour came to Canada from Africa. Labistour hails from South Africa, while Heathcote-Rey is from Mauritius.

Heathcote-Rey says he’s taking to heart Labistour’s advice to leaders, which is to remain open to change, to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, and that the best leaders adapt their leadership styles to different circumstances – among other nuggets of advice Labistour shared with the group.

The forum also featured a passionate talk from Richard Olivier, from Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London, who drew upon the five acts of Henry V to share insights into the journey of a leader. Among other presentations and workshops, the FRED Forum also included trips to non-profits and social enterprises in Vancouver, guided by a team from Sauder, to get first-hand experience looking at how leadership can have real-world positive impact.

Heathcote-Rey has since been sharing what he learned at the forum with his fellow Sauder students, writing up some lessons from FRED in the Commerce Undergraduate Society e-newsletter. Based on his experience with FRED, he says students shouldn’t be afraid to engage high-powered business leaders. “They’ve been in your shoes, they’ve been exactly where you are,” he says.