Is your business struggling? Are you having a hard time getting a job? Can’t figure out which way to go or what to do? Follow the leaders!
Sure, you think you’ve seen leaders piping up on tv or smathered across the Internet: Richard Branson, Maureen Dowd, Malcolm Gladwell, Sir Ken Robinson, Paul Krugman, Arianna Huffington… I don’t want to take away anything from these people, but the challenge is that they are opinion leaders, and not real actors who are making practical change happen today. They may have led by example in the past, but they aren’t right now.
We need to follow real leaders. Here are three examples.
Candace Neveau started a business called Thunderbird Rock in her small Ontario town to promote educational eco/culture tours and activities. Focusing on her tribal culture and historical elements of Sault Ste. Marie, as well as the ecosystem around Whitefish Island. Her tours specialize in history, craft making, nature walks and traditional teachings. She employs young people from her community, and teaches others too. Speaking about changing the world through entrepreneurship, Candace says, “There is a shift, an awakening, and entrepreneurs are people who are doing work and creating their own jobs because they see how broken things are and they’re not going to sit there and live with that. They have to change it. They can’t do anything else but change it. There are people out there and it burns inside them.” (LinkedIn profile)
Kaniela Ing is a state senator in the 11th House District of the Hawaii State House of Representatives. He was elected in 2012, and since then he has focused on policies that encourage sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. Ing believes in restoring public trust in the government and instituting election reform policies. He has also made education and economic development a focus of his time in office. Ing has strong opinions about a number of issues. For instance, when recently talking about a new voter registration law, he commented, “We need to modernize our archaic election processes and make voting as easy and simple as possible.” (LinkedIn profile)
Leanna Archer used a recipe from her great-grandmother to bottle and sell her own hair pomade to her friends. Today, she has an entire line of all-natural products, including hair cleansers, conditioners and treatments. As the CEO of her own company, Archer works constantly and manages to maintain successful profit margins. In her spare time(!), she operates a philanthropic foundation to help build schools and safe learning environments for underprivileged children in Haiti. Leanna chips out wisdom like, “When you want something done, you have to do it yourself,” and “Dreams are wild, but they’re wild enough to come true.” (LinkedIn profile)
Each of these REAL leaders has practical, powerful wisdom to share right now. Each one is stepping out in big ways, past expectations and towards success on their own terms. We can learn things from these people and many others who are doing the work right now.
Here are three reasons why we need to follow REAL leaders:
Reason 1. [R]ealism: They Are Doing Tangible Things Right Now. REAL leaders are doing tangible things right now. They show realism because the scale they are working on and the impact they are having can be observed, and there are practical things we can all learn from them in real time. Since they’re operating right now, lessons and learning from REAL leaders are applicable to the real time situations we are facing right now.
Reason 2. [E]mpowerment: They know they’ve got something going. When people are entrenched in the work, they aren’t worried with praise or being lavished with accolades and awards because they are busy. They know they’ve got something going. When REAL leaders aren’t being praised all the time, they are either working or thinking about work. Their lack of awards makes their knowledge powerful because they aren’t trying to earn more awards or get more attention. REAL leaders are busy working.
Reason 3. [A]ction: People See Them Leading Everyday. The challenge of armchair leaders is that you can’t see them lead – you just have to take their word for it. People see REAL leaders working every day, because that’s what makes their leadership real. They aren’t sharing abstract concepts or theoretical frameworks; they’re doing real work.
Reason 4: [L]earning: They Are Learning All The Time. No matter who is at the front or how its happening, REAL leaders are learning all the time. For instance, each example above is from a young person who is under 25 years old, and successfully challenging apathy, disregard and cynicism from their own communities, and from society at large. They learn all the time, and so can you.
These four reasons make REAL leaders today: Realism, Empowerment, Action, and Learning. Follow REAL leaders!
The thing about REAL leaders though? They aren’t exceptional. Instead, they are the rule, more frequently than ever. Every person can be a REAL leader.
Here are 10 ways to follow REAL leaders in the world today:
- Make friends. Youth and young adults don’t bite. Offer a genuine hand of friendship to learn from them.
- Offer your time. Young people who are REAL leaders are busy all the time! Between school, young families, and hustling to make a difference, they are busy and could use a hand.
- Be a mentor. Offer your wisdom, and learn in turn. Many young leaders are yearning for adults to learn from, and you could be one of them.
- Challenge your beliefs. Think youth are apathetic and lazy? Stop. Think you don’t have time? You’re wrong. Believe you have nothing to learn? Get real.
- Go to where they are. If you want to learn from REAL leaders, go to where they are and quit insisting they come to you.
- Shop from them. Hire them, vote for them, and do practical things that benefit REAL leaders. Learn their lessons while you’re doing that.
- Form partnerships. Do you have something to offer youth entrepreneurs, young politicians, or youth social change agents? Work with them to learn from them.
- Challenge others. If you want to learn from REAL leaders, challenge the biases and negative opinions of other adults. That will force you to learn.
- Believe. Many young people are trapped in the cynical and demeaning news cycles that portray them as super indifferent or super violent. Believe in youth.
- Speak up. However, wherever and whenever you can, speak up for REAL leaders and promote them and their work.
Following REAL leaders can lead your business, your community, and yourself to a successful, bright and powerful future. They can do that because they’re on the edge, they’re sacrificing for success, and they are all making a difference.
What are you doing today? If you’re not making a difference, follow these young people and many, many others. Then go out and change the world.