Archive | October, 2013

YOUTH LEADERSHIP AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

20 Oct

Written by: Legend ISRAEL O. PETERS

Image[Ed. Note: This article is the winning submission for the First Round of the recently concluded YLE’s Leadership Writing Challenge 2013. Enjoy your read and kindly start/join the conversation in the comments section below.]

“Leadership is complex” and “leadership is complicated” are two statements from a world-renowned leadership expert, John C. Maxwell that every leader—potential or real—must come to terms with.

While planning an entrepreneurship meeting recently in my Teens Church, we came to realize something interesting. Though we budgeted two hours for the meeting, we wanted or perhaps desired something comprehensive; unrealistic! Realistically, a whole day wouldn’t be enough to say all that there is about entrepreneurship and money. It ended up lasting a little over an hour with focus on only an aspect of the fundamentals. The same thing goes with leadership: how much could you expect from an article? I want to examine leadership with regards to youngsters.

Young people have not been so much involved in leadership as we see today, until recently. Thank God for the change and even a hope for a better tomorrow. Nevertheless, there is still a need for more penetration, because “the leaders of tomorrow” get developed and prepared today.

The average youngster dreams of a “virtual ideal world” in which the internet and technological strides in electronics are the most cherished amenities. As detestable as boredom, any youth connected to the internet and possesses an exciting electronic gadget can kill it. Homes get boring when interesting relationships are found outside. Young people of today love sports, music and entertainment. All these contribute to the fast pace at which the world is moving today. Nothing is as detestable to young people as whatever tries to slow down this pace for them.

Hence, leadership doesn’t appeal to them. Three factors are glaring to that effect:

  1. Commitment
    It is interesting to observe that young people understand the demands of leadership. They see what their teachers pass through, how hard their spiritual leaders work, how those responsible for them get to suffer for their wrongdoing, and how their leadership positions get to “take” their parents from them. A couple of weeks ago, after returning from the Annual Convention of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, I decided to ignite the fire I saw in young people there in my fellow youngsters. As I addressed them, I made a call for them to move from “ordinary” members and join the workforce of the Church. It would require them to be in Church every Sunday as early as 7:00am, attend another House Fellowship every Sunday evening, be present at the Workers’ meeting every Saturday, to mention a few. In short, their commitment to the Church had to be tripled! Only few responded positively and willingly. I asked the rest and the response ranged from “I’m not ready” to “I don’t have time.” Days after, I brought up the issue and one told me, “Forget that side”!
  2. Responsibility
    Rev. Chris Oyakhilome, president of Believers’ Love World Inc., once wrote, “Leadership is responsibility.” From my three years’ experience with young people, I can almost hear the average youngster’s heart saying “what concerns me?” He thinks it’s irrational to bother himself with other people’s welfare when he is yet to satisfy himself. Fallacy! He naturally shies away from leadership. Responsibility is a great task.
  3.  Accountability
    It is characteristic of young people to be right in their own eyes. Consequently, they tend to resent authority, which doesn’t appeal to their instincts—which is yet immature enough to navigate itself. Simply put, they don’t want to be accountable to anybody and if things don’t go their way, they are likely to quit. One once told me that he wasn’t going to engage in leadership in a particular place because the authority there didn’t appeal to him.

In the real sense, leadership is an intentional commitment great enough to be responsible for others through service and informed enough to be accountable to someone. It is an interesting adventure that one can engage for a lifetime.

 Personally, I love the thought of that. But where does it all start?

John C. Maxwell wrote in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, “Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.” You can’t influence someone you don’t relate to. It means you can’t lead people you know little or nothing about. They are just going to watch you take a stroll until you’re out of sight!

I have realized from personal experience that it is easier to influence people when you connect personally and privately to their lives on an individual basis. I therefore believe that the first step to effective leadership is an understanding of the followers. Little wonder, no small amazement when I read in the book mentioned earlier the affirmation of the author: “Inexperienced leaders are quick to lead before knowing anything about the people they intend to lead.” How true!

ON PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Femi Ajayi, a young successful Pastor and writer said, “When you stop growing, you start dying.” All leaders are born; except they’re spirits. Some have the natural ability while others acquire most of the skills. As a youngster, here are some things you can do to discover your leadership potential.

  • Reflect: Have you often found yourself in leadership positions? Do people almost always listen to you when you talk? Do you find it easy to carry people along? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself.

Then…

  • Examine Today: Do you occupy any leadership position presently? Are you interested in any? What are your driving desires today?
  • Be Creative: There’s a common saying, “There is no harm in trying.” Try new things, accept challenges, leave your comfort zone, venture into new fields, and take up new challenges. Doing these will stretch your mind and dig out abilities that lie fallow.
  • Ask Right: Examining your life from without requires analytical and reflective skills. People have watched you grow into what you are today and others are still watching. From amongst your siblings, parents, teachers, spiritual and secular leaders, select the right ones to ask about your leadership strengths and weaknesses.

FOUR STEPS TO DEVELOPING YOUR LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL

After discovering your leadership potentials, it’s important that you develop them.

  1. Realize that leadership is not a solo journey and be honest with yourself about that.
  2.  Get a good mentor. This will save you time, energy, resources and minimize your mistakes.
  3. Determine to be patient. One step doesn’t make a crawling baby able to walk. John C. Maxwell teaches the Law of Process as one of his laws of leadership. Femi Ajayi (quoted earlier) said, “Continuous growth is critical to a fruitful life.” If you must be a successful leader, you must grow continuously.
  4. Read, Listen and Learn. Get the right materials and study them. Having a good mentor helps you determine the right material you need. Bishop David Oyedepo, Founder of Living Faith Church once affirmed that you tap into great minds by reading.

Finally, know that knowledge unapplied is useless. As you develop as a young leader, bring out the great stuff within. Apply the principles you learn and apply them if you want to get results and have something good to show for your development. Leadership is sweet. Leadership is interesting. More so, there is great hope for youngsters who start out early in their personal leadership development. I’m proud to be young; I’m blessed to be a young leader.

__________

Thank you for the time you’ve invested into reading this article.

What is your opinion about youth leadership? What advice would you give a youngster who has a desire to develop his leadership potential? How about becoming a leader yourself—right from this very moment?

Just drop a comment and you’ll get a response.

About Legend Israel O. Peters

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Israel is an undergraduate student of Mathematical Science at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria. He is the Teens Leader of his local Church. He’s also a co-founder of a youngsters’ all-round development team, KIST! When Israel is not in Church or teaching, he writes. He is the Leadership Writing Legend of the recently concluded Leadership Writing Challenge 2013. He’s real fun as much as a visionary, pragmatic young leader.

You can connect with Israel on Facebook to get more inspiration.

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HOW PREPARED ARE YOU FOR (EARLY) SUCCESS?

5 Oct

Firing at the target

Everyone desires success, everyone prays for success, everybody gets excited about success, but only few people really achieve success. Even if some people eventually succeed at least before their time is up, they will tell you that they’d have loved to achieve it earlier than they did. What’s the secret? Success never comes until your best shot hits the right target.

I remember when I was a Boy in the Nigerian Military School, Zaria. One of our dream exercises in the Military School is the Firing Range. Back then, all other tactical military training exercises—less the Firing Range and Inter-company Small Arms Competition—were performed using the blank ammo: a bullet without a warhead that only makes noise. Blank ammo doesn’t kill but can inflict injury at a close range.

What’s exciting about the Firing Range is that it’s always an opportunity to fire a ‘life round’ at a ‘Figure 11.’ A ‘life round’ has a warhead and can kill. While a ‘Figure 11’ is a wooden target with a picture of the top half of a soldier on it. It’s a kind of target specially designed for training shooters.

The Depot Nigerian Army owns the Range field. It’s a wide, grassy field of over 1 kilometre in length. Range fields are often far from human habitations. This is to prevent incidents from happening to somebody in a nearby town if a shooter misses a target. Oh, I remember, there’s a hill behind the target trenches, where ‘wash out’ bullets bury themselves.

There, on the Range field, we practice all sorts of shooting methods and adopt several shooting positions. One of the methods that’s so interesting for me is the ‘snap shooting,’ because it teaches the important role that preparation plays before we can achieve any success.

How snap shooting is done? Let me explain. The Figure 11—or target—appears when you least expect it. It stays up for about 4 seconds then disappears. Your goal is to release two shots on the target when it’s still visible.

The principle is simple. If you hit the target, you score your point. If you miss the target, you lose your point—and will be considered a poor marksman. You’ll repeat this process for about 4 other rounds.

One important lesson from snap shooting is, to hit the target (and score a point), it matters less when the target appears and more on how prepared you are to release the shots on the target when it finally shows up.

Success is a lot like that. You have to prepare for significant opportunities and be always willing to release your best shots anytime they show up. Success is a prepared reward for prepared people. No matter what age you are, you can start achieving something meaningful if you take these 6 steps I want to share with you.

1. Define what achievement means to you.

Last week I had a conversation with a youngster. In few minutes we started discussing about success, and one thing I mentioned that he found difficult to swallow was that age is neither a barrier nor qualification for achievement. If you know me well, that seems to be one of my strongest beliefs.

After a few considerations, I could figure out something was missing. He thought the only definition of achievement is to attain stardom. Even at that, age is still not a barrier. Then I asked him what achievement means to him. He couldn’t give a clear response. So he shot the question back at me.

I replied: Achievement means different things to different people. But in simple terms, it’s about setting a goal, going after the goal and getting the goal. It’s that simple!

I’m glad that changed his perception about achievement. He even started believing in his potential to achieve early success. In fact, he’s always been a very intelligent guy.

For some years of encouraging young people to start doing something amazingly significant, I’ve discovered that too many youngsters are placing their lives on hold. They are waiting for the huge target and the exotic opportunities before they pull the trigger. They’re holding back, stalling and waiting on graduation before they make any plan, start to learn about leadership, develop their communication skills and even grow the potential they possess.

Think about it: Wouldn’t you love to land your first job in an administrative position? I bet that’s your dream! Of course, nobody will hate himself for succeeding earlier than usual. (In fact, if care is not taken, early success will enlarge an individual’s ego). However, only few people are willing to pay the price to make that happen. And for you to know what price to pay, you must know exactly what you’re paying for.

2. Look inwards to see if you have what it takes.

I will keep this short. When I was in the Military School, I remember what my Economics instructors say. It goes something like this: Once you know what you want, check in your purse to see if you have the purchasing power.

You see, it’s one thing to know what you want to achieve and it’s another to have what it takes to achieve it. Fine, it’s good to know what way leads to Lagos from Abuja, but if you don’t have any means of transportation, I bet you can’t make the journey—except you choose to spend over 4 months on foot!

So what do you have to check inwards for?

  • Talent—The natural ability to excel
  • Passion—The drive for excellence
  • Skill—The knack for excellence

If you don’t have the first two—talent and passion—for what you figured out in step one, take this simple, hurting but helpful advice: quit it! Find something else you have a strong passion for and a natural ability to do.

But if you only lack the skills to accomplish what you consider to achieve, you can always learn and improve in the process. Just make sure you get up to speed with your personal development plan. (If you have no idea what a personal development plan is, and you like to have one, here is a helpful article by Bangol University, UK.)

3. Identify what keeps you where you are.

After you know exactly what you want to achieve and have realized that you have what it takes to achieve it, wake up and answer reality’s call! (We’ve been dreaming since you started reading this post. And that’s okay.) Look around you and ask yourself: What could have been holding me back from achieving success? Alternatively, what are the factors that can work against my success or stop me from achieving anything significant?

After this gentle introspection, wait for the answers to start rushing in: financial constraint, physical disability, poor environment, narrow-minded associates, etc. (Remember that age is not one of these factors. So if it comes, dispose it!)

You may decide to write a list of all the factors you feel can be a barrier to your success. You may even choose to paste them somewhere you can easily see them always. Whichever way, that’s left to you. Then anytime you see that list or remember those factors, say this to yourself repeatedly: These factors aren’t excuses for not succeeding; they’re simply conditions under which I must succeed!

Before we move on to the next step, I want to quickly point out something to you. In my country, Nigeria, some of the factors are beyond human control—they’re spiritual—take it or leave it. In that case, you have to offer prayers of help to God. In fact, the entire process demands prayer—either the factors are within human control or not.

4. Check around for people who are presently successful at what you want to achieve.

Now that you’ve made up your mind to never give up on your dream, it’s time to do some research about people who are already succeeding at the same thing you want to do. That means you have to look for models and learn from them. Read their books and listen to their tapes.

It’s also advisable to read your hero’s story—biography or autobiography. You may even find out that he has experienced a similar situation like the one you’re going through, perhaps a tougher one. Learn the actions he took to break through those barriers and see if you can do the same. Meanwhile, you have to be careful about the kind of influence you permit in your life. Make sure your model is someone…

  • You can trust
  • Who has values that are aligned with yours
  • Who’s open enough to inspire other people to achieve success

If the terms agree, then you’re save to learn more about your model.

Yes, I didn’t forget. It’s important you get a mentor—someone who can be a personal guide, who you can confide in and who can advice you.

Few months ago I fielded an interesting question after speaking at a Young Leaders’ Conference. The young lady asked that she has been told several times that it’s necessary to have a mentor if one intends to become a public speaker. “What if I can’t find someone to mentor me, what should I do?” she inquired.

My opinion? I told her that if she finds one, fine. But if she doesn’t find anybody who’s willing to become her mentor, she simply can turn to books and get some nice advice.

These days, things are even getting better. You can join communities like this blog and some fine Facebook groups and you’ll get all the direction you want. All you need to do is just drop a comment or make a post and you’ll get some valuable suggestions you need. What I mean in essence is you don’t have to bother much about finding a mentor; just find some successful people in your field and learn from them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get a chance to meet them personally. If you do, good luck.

5. Think about the small steps you can start with—and take them!

Don’t wait for something big to happen before you prepare yourself for success. Yes, it may be a good idea to wait for the big opportunity to come. Why? Because you’ll learn firsthand how important the experience you get from seizing small opportunities are in preparing you for the larger opportunities. The bad news is that you’ll get the experience and lose that opportunity. The good news is if you learn the lesson, it won’t happen to you next time.

Successful sportsmen can tell you how significantly mere participating in school sporting competitions have contributed to building their career. Bestselling authors would explain to you how they have developed their craft from a 30-minute daily commitment to scribble down something. Preachers would emphasize the importance of a daily Bible study and evangelism if you ask them one of the important factors that have contributed to their success in the ministry.

The point is that success is not what you see on the game pitch or on the bestsellers’ list or on the platform. Success is really a sum of the daily little steps—especially the ones you take behind the scenes where nobody sees you.

Start something significant today—no matter how little. Write a bit today. Sing today. Make a sketch today. Paint a picture today. Write a poem today. Write an article today. Write the plot of a short story today. Talk to someone today. Preach to someone today. Do it tomorrow, and next…and you’ll be amazed how closer you’ll be pushing towards success every single day.

6. Constantly stretch yourself to get better every day.

If there is one rule of thumb for personal development, then, it’s daily improvement. It doesn’t get better than that.

I have seen this rule at work both in my writing and my speaking. That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. In fact, I do, because my aim is not to become perfect. My goal is to add value to myself and improve my skills every day—so that I can be of better value to others. I just want to get better every day. Yes, I want to get better than I am today. I want my writing to get better. I want to be able to connect with people better than I can right now. And I believe that’s true of you, too.

If you take all the steps in this article, make excellence your minimum standard in what you do and give any significant opportunity your best shots, let me tell you a good news: The earlier you discover yourself and daily improve yourself, the earlier you’ll experience success.

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Thanks for the time you’ve invested into reading this article. I’ll be glad to hear from you in the comments section. Just leave a reply and I’ll respond.

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