Dear Jessica, my name is so and so and I'd like to ask you to come and talk to Hispanic youth ministry kids about leadership... please let me know. Thanks!
Hmm, OK?! I think I spoke to students, granted, college-age students, about leadership once. Hispanic kids from the youth ministry program at the local parish? That's a little different.
And so it began. For the last month I have been trying to figure out how to put into words, the right words, what does learship means, or might mean, to Hispanic teens in Dayton, OH. Clearly, it will be different than any other talk on leadership I have heard in recent months.
Leadership is word that is used so often, too often and used in vain. In my humble opinion it deserves a little bit more respect than it gets, like the word "community" (don't get me started on that one- another blog post for the future! WINK!), or so many other words that are thrown in every other sentence we use in the vernacular of our daily lives. Oh, but wait, I mean work.. not life, although our life is very much affected by our work, and vice versa, isn't it?? I think so.
Fine, but what do I mean by respect of a word? Why respect the word leadership? We hear it used in the news, "the leadership of our county needs..." We hear it in our office, "because it is the leadership of our organization is that is..."
Here's why I choose to blog about leadership in this matter and eventually to tie it in with what I said to my darling Latino kids (by the way- Hispanic, Latinos- some of us DON'T CARE what word you use to describe us, just as long as you do it with respect, so RELAX! ;)) from the parish. Leadership is HARD!!!! Leadership is a concept manifested in individuals... and it is full of pressure. It is also overflowing with expectations to fulfill and meet often unreachable goals and a an unwelcomed ear to a heck of a lot of unsolicited advise from people who have little or no opinion about why and how you do things.
Leadership or leaders, and I can only speak from having looked up to great leaders, but also been disappointed in weak and insecure ones, are people too. We forget that. We forget that leaders are placed on a pedestal of steel, seemingly unbreakable, but when you look close, it is made out of the thinest glass, almost shattering at your touch. In other words, our leaders need a bit of slack at times.
Or do they... ;) Yes, but, maybe we can do a better job at shaping individuals at a certain age, at a certain time in their lives so they grow and develop in a healthy way so students, in this case, become the leaders of our future. Simple, right? Yeah, sure.
PAUSE for mental thought processing - where is she getting all this? What does she mean by all this? What's the point? AND how are we suppose to "teach" leadership in a way that works better than what is already out there.
Simple, really, at least for me to write about it. No, wait, to talk about it and to address a group of young minds. LIGHT BULB! I did it. Yesterday.
What? Without a doubt in my mind, I realized that every summer I stand in front of teens, open for adventure, embracing their faith. The life skills we discuss in our retreat begin with listening, then self-acceptance, onto self disclosure and that leads to affirmation. Finally, we embrace our mission in order to be commissioned and be sent forth... Simple, this is the sketch, the themes of a little retreat called LIFE: Living In Faith Experience. It too deserves more respect and not to be taken for granted as it is at times, for it is a perfect model for leadership formation and development.
The life skills sessions flow throughout the week. In my humble opinion, as leaders we must listen first. Listen to ourselves, which is also listening to God IN ourselves, in order to then be ready to listen to others. We must self-accept ourselves, our faults, our sins, our imperfect perfection, made in the image of God. We all, as individuals, must then be OK with ourselves in order to self-disclose. We can choose to to disclose certain aspects in our lives with others, or just with God, and it is in the disclosing and sharing that we then connect with others and are able to be present to them, in good and bad.
When we take care of ourselves, like in the airplane when the flight attendant tells you "put your mask on before you assist the person next to you" and we are OK, at peace, hopefully, in a good place with God regarding WHO WE ARE, THEN we are ready to embrace our mission. The mission that is the journey of our lives and the mark we will leave in this world. Ahhh, lucky and blessed are those who figure this out sooner than others. For it has taken some of us quite a long time to get here... Ultimately, what does matter is that we did make it, after all. Better late than never!
We are commissioned, or promoted, or offered the dream job, gig, invitation to talk about leadership and then.... we are sent forth. It's time to indeed go forth, journey on, to act, to do...
Are you still with me?? I know, this is a long one... I hope you got it. My caveat to the kids was also my own reality check. It may sound like it's about me, cause it starts with me right? Well, yes, but no. I say yes, because we need to be OK with US. I need to be OK with me. You need to be OK with you. Now, get over it. It's not just about you, but about what YOU can do for others, for the community, the team, for the world.
Great leaders are not necessarily born; some maybe, not all. They are not all born with a silver spoon or turn "leaders" by earning a new high title... Great leaders, I believe will emerge from strong, smart, confident and happy (in all sense of the word) young minds, who listen and follow their hearts and eventually learn how to use their hands to make the world a better place. They can do it all--not perfectly (child, please!!), the figure out how to mix it up - the great mind, the kind heart and the strong hands. The are a jugglers... great leaders gracefully balance the 3 "Hs"- Head, Heart and Hands...