You’re reading this column because you view yourself as a leader, someone making a difference in the lives of others.
Whether through business, family or community work, leaders have at least one thing in common — they are taking action on an idea or concept bigger than themselves. It’s something they believe is so important, they want to create it, share it and accomplish it with others.
Since 1958, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) has inspired young people to become catalysts for positive change in their home, school, workplace and community. As America’s foremost youth leadership organization, HOBY has a long and impressive history of successfully motivating youth and volunteers to outstanding leadership.
The central core of our leadership philosophy and teachings is simple: Anyone can be a leader because leadership is not about positions or titles; leadership is about taking action.
I have met powerful and effective leaders during my time at HOBY. These are young people who have embraced their passions and successfully applied them on behalf of others.
There is Michael, who raised more than $400,000 for an assisted pet therapy program. At 15, Virginia, started heARTS, a nonprofit that has brought arts and education programming to thousands of schools. Allyson developed a youth fundraising model that has become one of Malaria No More’s main youth engagement programs and has helped save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Despite being in high school, they achieved remarkable results because they took action. And there are many more stories to tell.
What is a leader?
Leadership is a term applied and misapplied throughout society. We all know amazing, effective leaders. These are people who make a difference and achieve great results, sometimes without an official title.
We also know people who call themselves leaders, but despite their position or power, are not taking or inspiring action. Rather, they block initiatives and complain about the actions of others. These “leaders” taint our perceptions and beliefs about leadership — creating cynicism and mistrust.
When speaking to students about leadership, I sum it up by explaining that if you are president of your class because it’s a resume builder for college, but you are not actually doing anything, that doesn’t make you a leader. In fact, it makes you a liar. But if you don’t hold a position and are still taking action, through service and/or entrepreneurship, those actions make you a leader and hone your leadership skills.
Action prepares you for a future of leadership, success and creating change. This same sentiment applies to the CEO, manager and worker on the line or in the office. Each one can become an effective leader.
Which type of leader are you?
Are challenges opportunities for action or excuses for inaction? Is failure a chance to re-evaluate and recommit or the moment you abandon a goal? Is success a time for celebration and recognition with your team before moving to a higher level of action and accomplishment or a pageantry of self-congratulation and resting on laurels?
Regardless of venue or project, to be a leader is to be committed to action. A true leader embraces both their responsibility and opportunities to lead, inspire and bring out the best in others. People enjoy following and working with leaders who are taking action. And it’s more fun too. ●
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Javier LaFianza is president and CEO of Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership. HOBY’s mission is to inspire and develop the global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation. For more information, visit www.hoby.org.