When I was in high school and college, I don’t remember anyone talking about leadership. It was not a topic of conversation; it was not a course I could attend; it was not even a challenge that adults (teachers or coaches) gave me on campus. It is safe to say ‒ leadership wasn’t even a category in my mind.
The first mention of it, as I remember, was at a conference I attended as a university senior. John Maxwell spoke and mentioned that he believed those who thought and acted like leaders were measurably more valuable to an organization.
I went to work for him the very next year.
At the time, most leadership books were actually “management” books. The focus was on how to organize people and tasks. Most of them didn’t address the issue of vision, inspiration, emotional intelligence or even teamwork. Fortunately, the topic has evolved. Today there are far more resources on leadership, and I, for one, am grateful so many students and young professionals are getting involved.
If you’re considering expanding what you offer in terms of leader-development (in school, at home, on an athletic team or at work), let me incentivize you. Below are eight reasons why I believe that now is a perfect time to equip emerging leaders to serve.
- There is more “do it yourself” free content available today than ever.
You need not look far to locate free ideas and guidance. There is endless video content out there on YouTube and TED Talks. I have spent a good chunk of the past 20 years helping colleges establish leadership minors, creating a developmental process and a series of resources enabling students to grow sequentially. Even on their own, students can find tools to help them lead better (i.e. see LeaderTips).
- The problems and needs of the world are available to see on-line.
Most students hold a portable device in their hand every day, and on that device, they can see the needs of the world vividly posted. When I was young, a kid had to be intentional to discover what was going on globally regarding crises like dirty water, malnourishment, human trafficking, poverty, housing, etc. Today, the challenges are everywhere, and students are finding them and responding to them.
- Students don’t need a “sponsor” to get started or to build a platform.
Unlike 20 years ago, an entrepreneur, musician, artist or author had to be “noticed” by a publisher or an organization to gain a platform to launch an idea. Not anymore. Amazon lets you publish your own book; iTunes lets you broadcast your own song and GoFundMe enables you to raise money for a cause you believe in. Forget “white collar” or “blue collar” jobs. Today we have “no collar” leaders who start at home.
- Teens are more open and interested in leadership than in the past.
Since leadership has come in vogue, and books on management have morphed into genuine content on leadership, today’s young generation has taken notice. Adults are talking about leadership and the need for good leaders is obvious. A 2016 Universum survey reveals that globally, Generation Z teens are more interested in leadership than either of the previous two generations. Many want to serve by leading.
- The inspiration of others is posted every day, sparking ideas for solutions.
Thanks to social media, students can now observe how others are solving problems in communities and gain inspiration from such posts. Just like there are “copycat crimes” on school campuses, there are “copycat service projects” too. Students can interact with others who share the same passion for issues and gain ideas, receive motivation and even trouble-shoot together. This has given them momentum.
- Leadership is now a popular subject, and it’s gaining traction in schools.
Unlike decades ago, leadership courses are now offered in every state of the U.S. and at both high schools and universities. In 1986, approximately 70 colleges offered courses in leadership. By 2006, leadership had become a discipline with co-curricular courses nationwide. Today, over 2,000 colleges offer leadership studies, including majors and minors. The subject has expanded to high schools as faculty recognized its importance. We are privileged to resource many of the best ones, including a countywide program called Gwinnett Student Leadership Team (GSLT), which invests in select sophomores through seniors in the metro-Atlanta area.
- Our young have a keen intuition of where culture is heading.
Over 40 years ago, Margaret Mead keenly observed the future belonged to the young who will figure out where the culture is heading faster than adults will. They seem to understand technology, trends and ideas that will work in the future. Often, college students respectfully tell me, “I don’t look to adults for cues on the future. I know what I want to start, and I don’t plan on waiting for a company to launch me.”
- The need for leaders is greater than ever in modern history.
This is my opinion ‒ but let me offer my case for it. Because we have more people on earth today than at any time in modern history, we likely have more problems too. Humans are loaded with both potential to reach and problems to solve. What we need now are ethical, servant-leaders who serve by leading and who lead by serving. We are all about equipping students to solve problems and serve people.
Please let me know if you need resources or game plans to develop them.