What is Leadership? Some thoughts for 2011…

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak a the Waikerie High School Student Representative Council & House Captain Induction Assembly. I was asked to speak about leadership and provide some inspiring words for the students in the year ahead, particularly those in Year 12. Here’s a copy of the speech I gave – my little contribution:

As this assembly is obviously to induct and congratulate the 2011 SRC members I’ve been asked to talk about Leadership.

What is Leadership?

Leadership is caring about those around you – and doing something about it. It’s that simple. There is no perfect formula, no miraculous combination of personal attributes.

Of course when we think about well known leaders we can think of some shared attributes and try to emulate them – things like intelligence, creativity, compassion, perseverance & passion.

But there are many different kinds of leaders, not just the ones we write about in history books or give awards to, each of us every day has the opportunity and the ability to be a leader.

So this is the challenge I want to give you all of you this year, not just our SRC’s who I’d ask to lead the way by example but each and every one of you I challenge to be a leader. To care about others and do something about it. To have courage and compassion and to know that what you choose matters and your actions and words can change someone’s life – perhaps in big ways or perhaps by tilting them just enough you can help them find a better road.

You can do that and guess what – you should do it.

You can build the kind of world you want to live in, right now, you don’t have to wait to be 18 or have a car or a job. You can do it right now because you matter to the world and I believe in you. I want to see the imprints of your choices in the world around me because I know every single one of you has something precious and unique to offer – something that only you can give it.

So be brave, talk to people you’ve never spoken to before, ask out your crush, volunteer, give your absolute all to whatever you’re doing – whether it’s a paid job, school homework, washing the dishes for your parents, babysitting or hanging out with your friends. Be present for your life. And don’t let the mistakes you make, the fear, the doubts and bad choices cripple you – they’re just the building blocks, they don’t define you.

I dropped out of school when I was 15 and had a baby when I was 17- those things could have been the blocks that toppled me but I choose to let them build me instead. They are the fabric of who I am and make up the sum, they are not the whole. There is nothing you can mess up that is so bad it should steal the rest of your life from you.

So here’s 4 things I want you to remember this year:

1: be proud of what you contribute – whatever it is big or small it’s valuable and it does make a difference.

2. Bad choices don’t define you, Mistakes don’t define you. You are not the things you get wrong. What does define you is what you do next. How you deal with the consequences, how you overcome those bad choices and mistakes and what you build from them

3. get out there, get to know people, ask questions, be curious,

And lastly surround yourself with people who you love and who love you and if you can’t do that for whatever reason because some of us can’t at certain times in our lives – reach out to people who inspire you and who can help you find a place where you fit, because there is a place for everybody and you probably won’t find it in high school, some of you might not find it for 30 years and some of you might find it in 5 years but there is a place where you fit, where everything that you do and feel and understand belongs, and you will find it, and when you do find it, no matter how long it takes, it will have been worth it I promise you so don’t give up

Have compassion and have courage because you are part of the world, you are the citizens of the world and you matter, you are important. Thankyou

Also I thought it was pretty super rocking that the assembly sang the Australia National Anthem accompanied by one of the students playing the ukulele!!

Although this speech was written for a very specific audience – I’d challenge anyone who’s reading this to take some of it on board. Have courage. Have compassion. You matter to the world.

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