Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We Day - Our Part

We Day arrived in Kitchener Waterloo today with all of the buzz and excitement expected when the travelling ‘do good’ show comes to town. The kids love it, teachers love it, social media folks swoon over it like the latest specialty offering at Starbucks. So much praise for the event and for so many great reasons. The day is devoted to celebrating the greatest potential in our community youth. It is devoted to celebrating young people of leadership and to encouraging young people to be the change the world is waiting for. We Day is a fabulous thing!

And it has me reflecting (are you surprised?) on what leadership is and who leaders are and what responsibilities leaders have to the people around them.

I’ll be very honest here and admit that the attendance process had me a little bummed and flustered, you can’t buy tickets to We Day. You can watch it live on-line but you can’t get in unless you’ve been selected through your school or service club or church or social ‘connections’. And while the tickets are free, make no mistake; like any other social, brand marketed, mainstream event, attendance to We Day is bought, by people who can talk about it or who will be talked about.

Rule number one of marketing; if you want to reach the greatest number of people you need to deliver your message to the people with the greatest audience to spread it to. Makes perfect sense. There are 6,000 seats for the young leaders of today in the auditorium and many of them will be filled by limelight leaders of our youth; student council chairs, youth group leaders, volunteers, but I guarantee and hope that a great many will be filled not with extraordinary examples of leadership by ‘popular demand’. For very good reason; choirs don’t need converting.

Popularity is so easily confused with Leadership. To be very clear they are NOT the same thing, they do however have a responsibility to one another. We Day organizers are very cognisant of this I believe and I wish them great success in delivering to the popular seat fillers the real message of We Day.

Not that they are great leaders but that they have a responsibility to become great leaders.

That, as History has proven in catastrophic proportion, your ability to retain followers does not certify the content of your message. Our school yards are filled with live demonstrations of this every single day; popular kids inciting bullying and segregation, promoting exclusion and demonstrating ‘under the line’ choices like drug use, profanity, and disrespect.  Certainly, they are leading by virtue of personality but they are not leading anyone to a brighter tomorrow.

…..But they could be, with a little encouragement, a little coaching, a little accountability, a little We Day demonstration of what positive leadership can do. Imagine the impact a socially popular student could have on our community with their notable reach if they could learn and adopt the leading traits of our best messengers.

Our best messengers; the quiet kids on the playground, the invisible leaders who’s strengths are kindness, compassion and empathy; kids who seek the odd man out and raise their hands to lend a hand, not because it increases their exposure but because they like the way it feels to do something nice for someone else.

These kids are great leaders too who very often go unnoticed by their peers and teachers and grown-ups simply because they do not command the same attention as the popular set, they do not have the same notable ‘reach’ (not yet).

One of the greatest markers of a true and exceptional leader is their ability to generate an atmosphere others can thrive in. Our best messengers, our quiet leaders do this every single day by simple virtue of living by example

So today while we are celebrating our strong visual community youth leaders and encouraging our popular kids to live up to the responsibility of their stations I want to encourage every adult to take a moment and thank a messenger; one of the kids in the middle who might not feel like they are making a difference because they miss out on the loud revival message and the fanfare. 

They need our praise and encouragement because they just as much, if not more, represent the future and the change we will see in the world. When the kids grow up and the wheat of leadership is separated from the chaff of popularity, the goodness of our society will depend upon leaders who live a great message everyday, pass it along to there own children and make our world a better place.