I facilitated a workshop over the weekend for some young leaders. There was a conference for the university-based youth leadership organization AIESEC organized for the entire country of Finland and was held in Helsinki. At the end of the last school year, they had elections to bring in new leadership. These new leaders are now expected to lead teams, develop strategy, engage the members and develop a culture for the chapter that will facilitate these strategies. I was honored to speak on self-leadership, leading volunteers and creating an engaging culture.
At the end of the workshop, I invited anyone in attendance to come chat with me one-on-one with any issues, concerns or questions they might have. I was happy to see close to 10 young leaders eagerly waiting to talk. I was blown away by the depth and maturity of their questions. They were taking this leadership stuff seriously and were amazingly self-aware. I was more shocked by the quality of their questions than the content of them. It was amazingly refreshing.
Afterwards, I was so surprised by how taken aback I was by their questions. It was only after I took nearly 8 or 9 minutes to explain to them how much I believed in them and that their contribution to the world mattered that they were willing to trust me with their questions. And man did they let me have it. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had as a speaker.
I realized something that day. I intellectually knew it, but it was truly driven home by their actions. The difference was I engaged them where they were and encouraged them to develop from that place. Often times this generation is judged for where they are and admonished to be somewhere else in order to develop “properly”. Load. Of. Rubbish.
This is such a basic leadership principle, but we often times get sidetracked by how something is expressed that we forget it. Meeting people where they are, seeing their value (even through our lack of understanding) and developing them from that place is what makes leadership so important. We all need that from time to time in our lives.
The quality of their questions were so good, I thought it would make for a good blog post. You may be experiencing this with some of the younger leaders in your organization. Meet them where they are. Hopefully by understanding the questions of the group of young leaders I spoke to recently will educate you on what you should learn in order to support the young leaders in your organization as you develop their leadership.
- I’m a bit of an introvert and other people on the team I’m leading are more experienced in some areas than I am. How can I lead this team effectively?
- We have so many great ideas in our meetings. How do we maintain the efficacy of the meetings without ignoring possible great ideas?
- I am passionate about seeing a real, positive change in the world and know that my team can contribute to making that a reality. How do I have more confidence when I know that there is still so much I have yet to learn?
- I want to develop myself as a leader so I am more valuable to my team. What is the best way to do this while I’m still responsible to lead?
Can you hear the passion and determination in those questions? I don’t hear any sense of entitlement, rather an amazing sense of self-awareness and desire to do well. I would love to hear what you would say to these young people, or the young leaders in your organizations who would have the same questions.