You Can Lead From Wherever You Are
We are often limited in our thinking to imagine that a leader has to be the person at the top. Jordan Poole, a Michigan Wolverine true freshman from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the NCAA basketball semi-final game on Saturday night, gave us a great example of how leadership can come from anyone, at anytime. With his team down by seven points at half-time, Poole stood up in the locker room to give an impassioned inspirational speech to his teammates. According to the Michigan Daily, “Twenty minutes from an aggravating ending to a magical run, halftime would seem the opportune time for a veteran leader to take a vocal stance. Instead, Poole took initiative in the downtrodden locker room.” As a more experienced leader would do, he addressed his comments individually to each player, providing encouragement to what they needed to do to achieve a victory. For example, “Poole went straight to Xavier Simpson, the commandeering guard who entered the half-time locker room as frustrated as anyone, going 0-for-3 in the first half with 3 turnovers.” He said, “X, you’re going to lock the other team’s point guard up the entire second half.” We will never know whether it was Poole’s leadership that led Michigan to victory, but the fact remains that they stormed back after half-time to 69-57 win over Loyola.
What a bold move by a college freshman. As we look on as the world turns, we can find a few more examples of young people stepping into leaderships roles, often under extraordinary circumstances. In Parkland, Florida, we are inspired by the examples of high school students taking the lead in organizing student protests for gun control. From New Zealand, we see the protest singer, known by the name Lorde, who at the age sixteen released her first record, “Royals’. In Chicago, there is the story of Chancelor Jonathon Bennett, known as “Chance the Rapper”, who began rapping in 6th grade, and in 2014 Bennett was named Citizen of the Year in Chicago (at just 21 years of age).
Perhaps most impressively we have the story of 21 year old, Malala, who recently was highly celebrated in her return to Pakistan, where she had been shot in the head ten years earlier by the Taliban for standing up for education for women. For her efforts Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Her acceptance speech is considered one of the greatest speeches of all time. View her speech on YouTube
Based on these inspirational stories of what young people can do, I invite you to consider what you can do to encourage leadership from wherever you are in your life:
- Always encourage others, no matter where they are in terms of age, race, position, title, etc.
- Go out of your way to encourage and listen to young people. Know that wherever you may meet them, in your family, in the community, or in the workplace, they will appreciate that you have listened to them and care about their opinions.
- Always remember that rank does not equate to leadership abilities.
- Find your own voice. Whether it be through speaking, writing, or artistry, be sure to find an outlet to express your own opinions, and to lead when the opportunity strikes.
- Encourage those who may not feel empowered due to race, class, physical or mental ability, to express themselves and to know that they can lead.
As you can see, this topic inspires me. Personally, I have had the experience of leading a student-reform movement at my high school in Ferndale, MI when I was only 16. Leading this effort has provided me a blueprint for success throughout the rest of my life. I would like very much to hear about your stories of leadership at unlikely times in life and unlikely circumstances. And of course, GO BLUE! ~Dr. Rob