If we start with the definition that the highest form of leadership is the transformation of ourselves and our society to its better self and greatest good, it only stands to reason that adults must be responsible to nourish a child’s highest God-given potential. This is why I believe that learning how to inspire children about what leaders do and how they act is key for them to thrive in the 21st century.
In his moving and provocative book on the civil rights movement, The Children, David Halberstam took us back to the time, when faced with a severe crisis, ordinary citizens took a stand, not just for themselves, but for the entire nation. This was a time when an individual’s true colors were shown. “A group of children” took a stand for a better life, for a better tomorrow, for truth, honor and justice. These children were willing to sacrifice their lives and they stepped out into an angry crowd because they believed that good would prevail. They didn’t step out for the money. They led the civil rights movement for all humankind. That’s why “the children” will always be called leaders.
I believe the new generation of leaders has the potential to be very savvy. They know the difference between genuine leadership and phony leadership. They are witnessing first-hand the lack of judgment and the selfishness of present day leadership. The new generation is questioning leadership values of the present, because they want to forge into the future with more truth, greater wisdom, enhanced boldness to change the status quo. Where are the leaders of the past in today’s world—the Trumans, The Teddy Roosevelt’s, the Churchills, the Ghandi’s, the King’s?
In fact, I believe, the young are reaching far back into the past for great leadership role models and leader stories to embrace values, principles and courage that have made us such a great nation—the peace-makers, the politicians, the educators, the women, and community builders. These leaders stood for something real and genuine. They brought the world into their vision because there was purpose and meaning to life, work and relationships. Risk-taking was elevated to the higher good in society, not merely to make another million dollars.
The revolutionaries of today are bored with present leaders, with their empty style of leading. They see it as shallow and self-fulfilling. Selfish leadership stagnates quickly, because it doesn’t carry a fresh message of integrity, humility, sacrifice and passion. It merely carries a message of money and publicity.
I envision the next generation galvanizing people to change society for the better. The new leaders want to make a difference for a common purpose to make life better for all. Genuine leadership involves inspiring people, acting to solve issues, releasing human potential, which in turn creates positive and lasting change. They are called servant leaders, who lead people for the purpose of making life better for all.