When we talk about young leaders, people quickly think of Greta Thunberg or Mark Zuckerberg, due to their media attention or Greta’s well-known, activist speeches on climate change. But more quietly, the world is packed with young, inspirational leaders, trying to create a more stable, sustainable and inclusive world for future generations, minority groups or the society they are part of. In all their acts, innovations or ideas, you can identify the four qualities that make up good leadership; empowering others, solutions orientedness, being a world citizen and being self-aware.
Empowering others: Shamma bint Suhail Faris Mazrui
Mazrui, born in 1993, grew up in a wealthy family in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and finished her masters in 2015. One year later, when the prime minister of the UAE asked the National universities on twitter to nominate the brightest young person, she was appointed as Minister of State for Youth Affairs and became the youngest government minister in the world. empowering others.
Mazrui strives for two main aims. Firstly, she wants the world to know that young people and women in the UAE are not any different from youth in the rest of the world. She shares the message that every young person is on the search for peace and belonging, sharing the dream of good education, a career and a healthy family. Secondly, Mazrui uses her position in the National Cabinet to give a voice to the youth of the UAE, by arranging think tanks with them, to gather their input and opinions on National and Global issues, bringing these to the Cabinet. These ways, she empowers the youth of the UAE to be heard and feel part of world leadership.
World citizen: Inés Yabar
Similar to the work and initiatives of Greta, Inés Yabar has proven herself to be a true world citizen. This concept entails believing in your ability to make a difference in the world, as well as taking responsibility for making a positive impact on it. Inés is natively from Peru and currently 25 years old. From a young age, she has been a sustainability activist, especially taking a stand against deforestation and pollution, to boost Global climate action.
When Covid 19 arose worldwide, she saw the rise of a new Global issue; the increased (mainly economic) inequality due to insufficient access to good information about the virus among vulnerable citizens. Inés started a TV channel and a FAQ page, providing helpful information about COVID 19, to take responsibility and increase awareness and access for all societies. On these platforms, she gives young people of different communities around the world the chance to share their stories about their experience and the impact of COVID 19 on their lives. The initiatives started off in French, but have now also been translated to English to increase the reach worldwide.
Solution oriented: Basima Abdulrahman
In AIESEC’s definition of being solution oriented, two key aspects are ‘showing resilience in challenging times’ and ‘transmitting positivity throughout uncertain times’. When the second biggest city of Iraq was destroyed in the Iraq and USA attempt to chase ISIS out of her country, Basima Abdulrahman saw this as an opportunity to evolve the city to a more sustainable one. With her background in Structural Engineering, she envisioned the need to rebuild the city as a chance to ensure the use of sustainable materials and designs. This mindset shows the resilience and positivity of the young designer and enabled her to contribute to the battle against the climate change crisis. Due to the still unstable situation in Iraq, her design and plans have not been executed yet, but she had it her mission to build the first sustainable city in her country.
Self aware: Jaylen Arnold
From the age of 2, Jaylen was diagnosed with disability after disability, and by the age of 8, Tourette’s Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had become part of his identity. These syndromes and disorder left him struggling with finding his potential and place in society. In his search, bullying at school started from the second grade, which caused a lot of stress and resulted in triggering the syndromes and disorder even more. Teachers tried to reduce the bullying, but through this special treatment, Jaylen only felt more like an outsider and decided to do something about it.
His inner desire to stop bullying, for him and many others, fueled his initiative for ‘Jaylen’s challenge’. With this initiative, he travels to schools all over the USA to talk to over 100.000 young kids about the effects of bullying. His main goal is to challenge children to treat each other differently and to give a voice to the kids who thought they had none. From a young age, Jaylen was aware of his disabilities, but does not see himself as diabled, but rather “differently abled”. His experience gave him the ability to speak up for thousands of children who don’t feel comfortable speaking up themselves. This way, he focused on his strengths and his ability to empower others.
One thing I realised doing my research for this blog, is how every young leadership initiative is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, by the UN, by reducing inequalities (SDG 10), contributing to more sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) or fighting for climate action (SDG 13). This instant alignment makes the impact of these initiatives even more valuable to shaping a better future and world. Just like these four young leaders, there are thousands of young people out in the world, sharing their stories and ideas to make a difference. Everyone has the potential to be a leader and by becoming more self-aware, knowing how to empower others, positioning yourself as a world citizen and being solution oriented when life gets tough, you can shape a better future and be the change you want to see in the world.
I am Sharon Oudejans, 26 years old and currently at the end of my journey of leading AIESEC in Wageningen. Throughout this experience I have understood the importance of the four qualities of leadership mentioned above and worked on the development of all four. For every person, one of the qualities might be easier to develop than the other. For me, self-awareness has been a big struggle, but I noticed I can only empower others to live up to their potential once I understand and live upto my own and in this way lead by example. I hope with this blog, I inspired you to do the same.