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The Littlest Leadership Lesson

A couple of weeks ago, a style of leadership shook me on a personal and profound level.

The leadership I grew up watching was that of older, mostly white, middle aged, male representatives leading a charge, or a change. Growing up, the leadership I participated in was ‘prefect’ or ‘team captain’ style leadership where you were allocated a position by a member of staff, leading a sports team, or by a student and staff voting and vetting process to represent a study body.

As the world gradually becomes a village, preparing young leaders as global citizens is emerging as priority. Here in Scotland, one example is the International Development Education Association of Scotland (IDEAS) - a network of organisations and individuals involved in Development Education and Education for Global Citizenship across Scotland. The Year of Young People 2018 is inspiring Scotland and the rest of the world through its young people too.

As we look big, looking in becomes important too.

Good leaders recognise that policy, politics, and programming prioritises people. Excellent leaders move people; in the most literal sense and by creating human connections.  Social currency and emotional intelligence amongst young people today has changed the leadership game as the emotional labour done by young people all around the world begins to shine the light on the real leaders of the future.

It’s easy to dismiss young, millennial snowflakes as overly sensitive – feel free to. The picture below is a perfect example of my palpable upset at a new haircut. 

A strong understanding of self, the ability to regulate emotions in various settings, and an ability to hold on to a vision of a different policy, program, or political system is a practiced, calculated, and invaluable skill. I’m not talking about being in a stressful office with someone you dislike and making sure you don’t swear at them.

I’m talking about feeling the brunt of politics, policy, and/or programs that have undermined, restricted, or criminalised your existence and then working through that system and rising to a position of influence, as a leader. As you rise, you feel the brunt of every stare, ignorant questions, discriminatory comments, and explicit exclusion – and you persist until you can pursue change.

A couple of weeks ago, that was the littlest leadership lesson I learned. It was delivered in a magnificent way, and to the one who led us, it didn't go unnoticed.

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