It is the power to develop others. It is the capacity to develop yourself. It is the ability to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you can make an impact. Perhaps what is most important about leadership is that it is a mindset.
You may have heard of AIESEC as a movement that develops leadership in young people. However, that is not necessarily the same as saying that we turn people into leaders. In fact, what we do is make people believe in their potential to be leaders. We give them the self-confidence they require to think positively and bring positivity in the world.
But leadership is not an extraordinary matter but has daily applications. Struggling to have your teammates get along with each other? Leadership. Have a group of friends that are being led astray? Leadership. Teaching a group of children how to read? Leadership. Motivating a group of young students to tap into their potential to be a leader? Leadership.
Leadership is everywhere, which is why we want to redefine the word to something that relates to real life. You do not need to be the President of a country or the CEO of a multinational corporation to use what we have learned about leadership; you just need to have the courage and awareness to apply your skills every day.
Of course, that is the outer journey of a leader. It is what you are doing in the real world –learning new skills, challenging yourself in difficult situations and making a difference to other lives. The inner journey is what takes place in your mind while all of this is happening. While you are taking part in seemingly straight-forward tasks, you are also discovering yourself. You are discovering your strengths and focusing on them over your weaknesses. You are discovering your passions and your values. You are making a mental note of how you are responding to your situations and learning from it.
This gives you clarity in your life. You are able to make important decisions with more confidence – be it a career or a relationship one – and think clearly about the impact of your emotions on your personal and professional life. This self-awareness that you develop is crucial to your leadership. When you set personal goals for yourself, you are striving to improve yourself as a leader all the time. When you understand your values, you act consistently on them and encourage others to emulate you by your actions (since as we know, actions echo more than words!)
But that is not all it takes to be a leader. You must naturally learn to have a solution-oriented mindset. The leadership journeys you face as an AIESECer allows you to face challenges and obstacles with positivity. These challenges can come in the form of resolving team conflicts or trying to break the spell of unsuccessful cold calls or even convincing a student to make the decision to volunteer abroad. Through these difficulties, you learn to be more resilient, adapt to new realities and be decisive about the risks you take; all skills that are crucial at work.
Since leadership is all about impact, you must learn to reach a wide range of people and be adaptable in the way you empower your audiences and colleagues. For example, you may be great at communicating professionally to older people, but this does not necessarily guarantee that you would be able to do the same when educating young children about the importance of, say, eating healthily. If you are able to make your words in diverse environments, more people will be able to relate to you and hence buy into what vision you have for the world.
While going through your journey of self-discovery, of leadership, you may find that some of your interests intersect with having a positive impact on the world. So once you have mastered self-awareness, empowering others, and being solution-oriented, all it takes is the will to use your skills and passions and apply them to global issues that need solving.
Because at the centre of being a leader is having the right intentions, of being a citizen of the world. Your choice to volunteer in Thailand as a teacher may give you an urge for providing education to children from poorer backgrounds. Your experience as a member of AIESEC may feed you the desire to fill the gaps in youth leadership around the world.
Or perhaps it may simply give you the inspiration to start the movement or charity that you have always wished you could but did not have the courage to do so. Who knows?
Leadership is many things. It is the awareness to learn from your experiences. It is the skill to give strength to others. It is the ability to turn a challenge into an opportunity. It is the will to transform the best of yourself into the positive output that the world needs.