I recently had the pleasure of watching this TED Talk by Drew Dudley with a group of 30+ middle school students who both applied to and were accepted for The Davis Academy’s Middle School Leadership Training Institute (MSLTI):
In his talk Dudley emphasizes the often overlooked low- hanging fruit of leadership which, for him, is the simple truth that most of us continually do things great and small that impact people’s lives for the better.
Too many of us unconsciously cling to the false notion that “leader” is a special title granted only to certain individuals like elected officials, captains of sports teams, or school administrators. We think that in order to truly qualify as a leader our actions have to have some sort of cosmic importance or shape the course of world events. We dare not call ourselves leaders on the basis of such an absurdly limited definition.
At its core leadership is about daring to make the world a better place. The good news is that, when simplified and demystified, we can start to see continual leadership opportunities, often in the smallest of moments. With the recognition of unlimited potential and possibility for leadership comes humbling awareness that we let many, maybe even most, of these opportunities slip through our fingers. Marianne Williamson (who is quoted in Durley’s TED) names the anxiety that many of us feel:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Our leadership development work with middle school students is geared toward helping them learn to channel their “power beyond measure” toward legitimate ends.
We dare our students to encounter their brilliant light from a place of joy and appreciation rather than a place of fear.
We dare our students to shine in ways that inspire, encourage, and lead their peers, teachers, and others to shine along with them.
How fortunate we are that our work in this area can draw inspiration from Drew Durley and others who have elevated “leadership” to the highest pillar of the “everyday.”