Engaging readers in the very first sentence is the key to all blogs, so of course it is never an easy task. As you’re reading this, I hope to have captured your interest, and I pray that by the end of this, you tell yourself, “I will be a leader today.” May your eyes never glaze with boredom in the next five minutes, and may you never regret clicking on this link.
I could harp on and on about famous leaders around the world. Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, and Mother Teresa. All of these people have woven together ribbons of philosophies, ideals, and achievements that continue to move others today. But as youth, do you think any one of them knew the reasons they’d be remembered for? Probably not.
Even I can attest to this fact. I recall sitting in my 8th grade history class, the last one of the day, and the entire class feeling too eager for the clock to reach 3:15pm. Mr. Jordan was reminding everyone of a possible pop quiz in the next couple of days, and me, well I was trying to sneak in a couple of pages from a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. Never did I think that one day I’d be writing a blog hoping to inspire youth into action—into becoming leaders of their communities.
Yes, that is my goal today. There’s no need for you to freak out about this topic either. A leader is just a fancy word for someone trying to make something happen.
Here’s a four-step process that turns ordinary people into leaders:
Step 1: Notice a problem
Is there something that could be done in a better way? Something that could be more effective? Maybe there’s too much garbage around your neighborhood and no one is doing anything about it. Maybe one of your classmates is struggling with Geometry. Learning about the consecutive interior angles has tangled his brain into knots. Maybe students in your school aren’t into recycling. You can start a recycling program—spread awareness about environmental conservation. There are a multitudes of problems with easy problems, but only if your eyes are open.
Step 2: Think of different solutions
This step might look like the hardest, but it’s not. Do not be intimidated by it! I repeat, do not be intimidated! All you have to do is think of the many ways to solve your problem. Some solutions might suck outright, but some would be just right. You can ask Ms. Katchka, the Geometry teacher, to help your friend out. You can let him suffer through Geometry. Hey, his F is not your F! You can help him out yourself. Or you can ask him to study harder, practice on his own, read the chapter on those consecutive interior angles.
Step 3: Act on the best solution
Rack your brain through all the different solutions, but pick only one. Choose the one that is most likely to work. You can’t ask Ms. Katchka, who teaches five Geometry classes, can barely cover through all of the Geometry content in one sitting, and has a mountain load of paperwork to grade during her free time to help your friend out. That’s not realistic or doable. Maybe the local library offers a tutoring program, but your friend catches the bus and has no one to take him. This one’s a downer too. He’ll be stranded at the library if he goes to the tutoring program! But then, there’s you. You, math whiz you! You understand the consecutive interior angles. You offer to help him out during lunch, before school, or even after school.
Step 4: Determine the outcome
This one is the feel-gooder step because it makes you feel good about yourself. You feel like you’ve made a difference. Changed something. After working with your friend for a couple of weeks and one test later, you see that he’s not struggling as much and his grades are looking better. He’s getting it now and you were a part of it.
Are ya still awake? I want you to know that solutions to problems need not be as great as Mother Teresa’s limitless compassion or Gandhi’s civil disobedience or even Henry Ford’s lifelong goal to improve economical transportation, but these solutions need to be acted upon so that others, after seeing you, follow your lead and become leaders themselves. You don’t need a suit. You don’t need a fancy office. But you DO need to have a willingness to try out a solution to a problem you see.
Side Note: In our continuous effort to connect with youth, Executive Director Gimie Doherty and Assistant Director Rajeshwari Prasad presented a live webinar on May 21, 2016. This webinar—the first in a series of others to come—focused on youth leadership and can be found at our YouTube channel.