How do we build future leaders?
The 21st century is the age of unseen opportunities and the breathtaking transformations. This is also by all means the century of the youth. It is the time when for the first time ever in history the technological advance allows the freedom of access to information and knowledge which the youth particularly takes great advantage of. The youth is seen, the youth is active, the youth is committed and responsible. But this is also the age of the greatest challenges that are more and more seen as global, what means requiring the whole humanity to act as one to resolve them. And it is vital for the youth to become aware of the global challenges and to develop the confidence to apply the extraordinary energy it owns and use the progressive technological means to achieve the fantastic results.
The dilemma is to what extent we accept the involvement of the youth. There are 1.8 billion young people living in the world nowadays (UN SG annual report, 2017). This is not just an impressive number. It is the large amount of voices that want to be heard, passions that want to be pursued, hopes for the life yet to come. The youth has the largest amount of energy. The matter is where this energy is directed. Is it aimed towards peacebuilding, security, sustainability, love or is it aimed towards radicalism, violence and hate?
We obviously do not want the youth to walk onto the wrong path. How do we ensure then, that our will is directed towards the certain steps that are taken on the way to the positive empowerment of the youth? The key to the mystery behind this is leadership. For in the leadership lays the fundamental difference between whether it’s we expect something from the youth to be done, or whether we actually see the youth taking the action.
None of us wants to foresee a depressive and apocalyptic future ahead. We are inspired by the great hopes that we have for the upcoming decades. We firmly believe that the generations that are to come and overtake the policy making processes will be better than the current political generation. Such hopes are turned into the visual reality through leadership of the youth. Once we see how the youth takes action, how the youth is capable of taking up serious challenges we understand that this is real and just the matter of when we decide to make this decision as the members of the youth “Do we want to become the leaders of today’s world” and for those who have access to the resources that allow such leadership to take place to make the decision towards the recognition of the unique and unsubstitutable role that the youth plays in the global affairs.
When we ask ourselves “How do we build future leaders” we really should keep in mind that we don’t want to build them in vitro and wait for the time to come so they can take action. We have to understand that the most important day of everyone’s life is today and we have to engage the youth right now and right here. This is the only way how we can actually build the future leaders. We just have to build leaders now. It is the matter of action. Let us at this moment focus on the three main pillars of youth leadership. These will be fully focused on the specifics of a young individual’s character.
Firstly and most importantly, confidence building. The youth, as identified by the UN terminology is men and women from 14 to 25 years old. This is the age of uncertainty and high ambitions. This is the age when the youth might experience support and understanding and as well as that face rejection of the society. The more confident a young person feels about the society acceptance and openness to him or her ready to step into the world of action – the less likely we are to see this individual plunge into social deviance. And the more inclusive the society is the more positive will be the impact of a different individual that engages into the society. A young man or woman needs to feel confident about his or her capacity to act. It is every single human being living on the planet wanting to leave an eternal mark after his or her death. Everyone wants to have a purpose in life to live for. Once an individual loses this purpose, as well as the whole society of individuals, once it loses the purpose of its’ existence and living we face the dramatic and most often severe and not productive period that can last for a year or for a century, all the way before an individual or a society finds the purpose to live for. The tendency is that to find the purpose once its’ been lost it takes either a major outbreak of violence. The society has to avoid violence by all possible means in order to progress. It is not the easiest way, but it is the right way. Where purpose is there is confidence. Confidence in who you are, what your objectives are and what the means to achieve them are. Confidence is what supports an individual and a society in everything. The youth leaders have to be confident they can achieve what they set up for themselves. How do you build confidence though? Confidence can come from the impact of the outside world. Confidence comes from recognition of one’s success. Also from the words of support and appreciation. This confidence is determined as the outside confidence. This confidence is highly dependable upon the impact from the outside. But the outside world, however, is not always welcoming to an individual, especially to an individual different from the most of the society. The absence of understanding and thus following acceptance can direct the energy of a young man or woman into the direction of rebellion against the society and its’ values. From the perspective of common good this is not something a society likes to experience however, it has to experience this especially when the young voices are ignored, not heard, not taken seriously. An example to this would be the worldwide growth of the peace movement in 1970’s. This was a strong message of the youth against the war. It was supported by the outbreak of violence. It achieved certain goals and objectives and definitely erupted certain cultural patterns. However, when we talk about how do we build future leaders we probably mean the more peaceful means. The example from above is the illustration of how the future leaders built themselves. This proves us that confidence can also be developed by the efforts an individual takes to reflect upon its’ capacity and estimate it to the realistic level. This works with exceptional individuals that have the inner passion to achieve the stage of such confidence, however the recognition from the outside world is still the dominant factor in gaining confidence.
Secondly, competency. A leader is someone who knows the direction to which he or she wants to stream the common efforts or wealth to gain advantage or achieve progress. One is not very likely to become a sustainable and long-serving leader without the needed awareness and experience in the sphere of leadership. For a young leader the level of his or her competency is one of the guarantees of confidence. We develop competencies through our education and experience as well as through the self-reflection, ability to analyse our mistakes and learn from them. There are young people without access to education. However attractive the book titles “You don’t need education to succeed” didn’t sound that was not true. A comprehensive and inclusive education gives the ability to speak clearly and make judgements critically. Education is mandatory for becoming an expert in the chosen field of action and gives one the eligibility to consider him or herself for a leadership position. This relates to applying the existent knowledge into planned action. Competency is vital for strong and resultative leadership. A young leader is likely to have less experience than an older or it’s better to call it established leader. But every established leader was once young and faced probably the same difficulties that a young leader faces at this time. It is, however, in the interest of all to open as many opportunities as possible to the emerging young leaders so they can have a bigger positive impact later in life. The way it could work is when a young leader can get out into the field and develop the necessary skills facing the challenges and difficulties. Life is full of challenges and the main thing about them is how we actually get out into the world and face them eventually. If we feel confident about our purpose and objectives, if we believe the intensions of ours are good we feel confident on the path through a tough journey and when we come to the end of this path we realise how much we have changed and what new skills we have developed. The more one is skilled the easier it is to act and deal with things. And learning not only from books but also from experiences, not being afraid of making mistakes, or to look funny or weird is a great advantage that those who wish to become future leaders can easily gain just by the according mindset and devotion to this model of thinking and acting.
Finally, love. However philosophical or religious this would not have sounded – anything planned without the presence of love is in the risk of becoming evil. In the basis of every responsible action lays love defined as the spirit of good intensions. Young leaders have to feel love to what they do, to who they are, to who they want to become and to what world they want to build. Love has to fill everything. For where is love there is trust into the adequacy of a human. A loving human would never hurt another human. But once you own love it has to be comprehensive and you cannot set it to certain limits. Every human being experiences love. Leadership that is based on love is strengthened by the moral aspect. Once morality is excluded from politics, politics become immoral. Once morality is excluded from leadership, leadership becomes immoral. Once love is excluded from any relationship that relationship becomes immoral. Love is the universal regulation of good and bad. Every human being experiences love and can understand where love is present and where love is not present. For a future leader it is vital to know what love is, how to love and how to spread love. Love equals morality. For a young person it is very important to grow love inside of his or her heart. One has to start with him or herself. Start with loving and accepting yourself the way you are, however, not excusing laziness, irresponsibility and immaturity. Once you fill yourself with enough of love to share it to the rest of the world you do so diligently. It is only that person who truly knows the essence of love who managed to love him or herself first. Love the neighbour like you love yourself. And if one wants to excel at love this individual has to make sure the love he or she intends to spread onto another one is as big as the love he or she has for oneself. A young leader has to learn how to love in order to be loved by others. To love is to understand and to accept. To love is to forgive and to release from hate, prejudice, intolerance. Love is the strongest tool an emerging leader can enhance in order to gain affection of the many and direct the unique diversity united by love into the world-transforming direction.
With these three pillars of youth leadership everything seems to be possible. When we think of a young leader we think of the two words that make the definition – young and leader. I strongly believe that anyone can become a leader, however, no one can become young again. And in the youth lays tremendous energy, passion and strive that is once directed into the flow of goodness and positive commitment to impact the shape of the world is the energy capable of unseen results. The potential of the youth has to be considered at the flashing moment of being young. Through confidence building, competence and love a young man or woman can turn into an impactful leader. We all are leaders, it’s just the matter of the extent to which we lead. Some are leaders in their families, in their schools, in their local communities or in the national youth policy of a whole country. Once you realise you are a leader, once you work on your leadership to make it more confident, more competent, more loving you turn into the leader by all of your nature and take a lead in whatever you do and whatever difficulty you face. For young people there is nothing more important we could think of but to understand that life will be full of winnings and losses. With this being said one has to learn how to not get mislead by the glory of victories and how to not get discouraged by the drama of losing. For there is no drama in losing. There is a great opportunity to learn and become stronger and better. The youth has to understand that the most important day of their lives is today. Today is the day to act and take steps, no matter how big or small they are, but to start walking on the path to becoming who they want to become. We all know who we want to be the better we hear the voice of our hearts. We already have everything we need, we have to understand ourselves, learn how to read what our mind tells us. We all are different and unique but that what always brought prosperity to us once we unite this diversity for a common good. There are more than one thousand reasons in XXI century for the whole humanity to unite. And the potential of the youth, once united, makes a change.