“We set young leaders up for a fall if we encourage them to envision what they can do before they consider the kind of person they should be.” –Launching a Leadership Revolution, pg. 50
One of the favorite aspects of my current ministry is equipping high school youth to be leaders in their church, school, and home. I get such energy from these experiences. It is so much fun to watch young people feel empowered and motivated to take ownership of their lives and their leadership because we gave them the skills they need to succeed.
Equipping youth to be leaders is not just about giving them the skills they need, as the quote above suggests. Part of raising up leaders is about helping them name what kind of person that they want to be. Once we help potential leaders understand who they want to be, then they can begin to understand what they can do with their lives
I think it is important to ask youth (and adults) questions that will allow them to better understand who they want to be, not just what they want to do.
1. How do you want to be remembered at your funeral?
I’m sure many of you have done an activity like this. (Writing your obituary or naming what is on your tombstone are other popular ways of dealing with this question.) It is a powerful question. It allows young people to jump ahead many, many years in their lives and name how they want to be remembered. I’ve never had anyone tell me that they want to be remembered as a power-hungry, insecure, and unkind leader. I’ve never had someone tell me they want to be remembered as a person who devoted their lives to their work while ignoring their family. Everyone names positive characteristics that show a life devoted to loving God and being someone who makes a positive impact in the world. This questions can help shape what they do in life.
2. What qualities do you hope to live out in your life?
This is about naming the qualities that they aspire to. Again, similar to the question above, this allows people to envision who they want to be. Sometimes we find that we already embrace many of these qualities. Other times, we find that we have some work to do in changing our behavior. For instance, two qualities I aspire to are selflessness and servant leadership. Yet, when I examine my life, I’ve discovered that I am more selfish than I want to be. I’m also not quite the servant I hope to be as sometimes feel a sense of entitlement (something I think many leaders struggle with). Asking this question allows me to make course corrections in my life.
3. What role does character and integrity play in your life?
Ever heard the statement, “nice guys finish last”? Well, it’s not true. I once heard someone say, “Nice guys don’t finish last. They are usually running a different race.” In my experience, the organizations and people that live a life of integrity often tend to be very successful. The earlier we can help young people realize the power of living a life of integrity as described in the Bible and our religious traditions, the sooner they start to see the importance of it in their lives.
Even in my own life, these are questions I have to continually answer as I get older. Sometimes I find that I am straying a bit from the person I want to be. Asking these questions help me to get back on track. It’s fortunate that I get to teach on this topic at least once a year. Each year, I’m forced to think about these questions in my own life.
I encourage you to ask yourselves these questions, and especially help youth the answer them as they begin to see their potential as leaders in the world.
How would you answer the questions above?