The room was packed, like so many conference sessions I’ve facilitated. Folks had come from all corners to attend this international meeting, and they came to this session called “Every Youth A Leader”. In the conference session description, I’d written the following:
“In their homes, schools, communities, and throughout society, children and youth are leading the world right now. There are many adults who don’t see all young people as leaders right now, and this workshop is designed for adults who work with those resisters.”
Introducing the workshop, I shared the four principles of youth leadership today:
- Every youth is a leader, whether or not adults recognize that makes a difference.
- Fostering youth leadership starts at home, extends into school and throughout the community, and in a reciprocal loop from adults to youth and youth to adults.
- Everyone benefits from youth leadership, even if they don’t recognize it.
- Learning about youth leadership is essential to engaging youth as leaders.
Participants then talked about each point. They talked about whether they agree or disagree with it, and they discussed whether they’d seen it in action.
When people don’t disagree with me, I think they’re too comfortable. Luckily, the very first principle drew objections.
“Every kid isn’t capable of being a leader.”
“I know too many youth who just don’t want to be leaders.”
“MY youth aren’t leaders, that’s for sure.”
So many cynical, jaded and frustrated youth workers, social workers and others responded these ways and others. Working through interpreters, I replied to some of their comments and let others respond, too. Then, the conversation became robust!
Sometimes, the best conversations come from conflict, including the idea that EVERY youth can be a leader!