Not Too Young to Make a Difference: Young Leaders are Leading on the Global Goals

By Genelle Adrien

August 23, 2018

This post originally appeared on the UN Foundation blog here. 

Today’s youth generation is the largest the world has ever seen. There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24. And, they will soon be responsible for a world with rising global challenges like hunger, climate change, and conflict.

It’s challenges like these that are motivating young people around the world to take action. Not only are they raising their voices, they are also stepping up in their communities and showing that with optimism and determination, global change is possible.

One of these young people is Askadeline Malines. Askadeline is 13, plays the guitar, and loves to visit her family in the Dominican Republic. She is also passionate about fighting for gender equality, standing up for immigrants’ rights, and working to tackle climate change and poverty in her Bronx community. Askedeline is an alumnus of the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program.

An initiative of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, the Junior Ambassadors Program connects seventh grade classrooms across New York City to the United Nations and empowers students to see themselves as global citizens. Students learn about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and lead projects in their communities to help achieve them.

As a Junior Ambassador, Askadeline has given speeches at the UN, organized a carnival to promote gender equality in her neighborhood, and encouraged her fellow classmates to strive for change through the SDGs.

In Askedeline’s words, “the SDGs help us feel empowered.”

I had a chance to chat with Askadeline about her time as a Junior Ambassador, what it’s like to visit the UN, and why she’s motivated to build a better future for her community now and for generations to come. Here’s what she had to say.

Genelle Adrien: As a young person, why do you care about the Global Goals? What sparked your interest in global issues?

Askadeline Malines: I care about these global goals because they are the key to helping the world we have right now. I need to focus on these global goals and help inspire other kids to take action.

What sparked my interest was the NYC Junior Ambassador Program and the problems people all over the world were facing. I wanted to help instead of staying home and doing absolutely nothing. I don’t like seeing others in trouble and waiting for someone else to answer the call.

GA: We know you organized a gender equality event in your community. Can you talk about why SDG 5 is important to you? How can other young people help their communities strive for gender equality?

AM: Gender equality is important because it addresses most of our global goals, specifically towards human rights. We should all start with the rights of the people because when people have what they need, they are then more able to help others and the environment.

It’s a matter of using the cards you’ve been dealt. Now as a young person I have to speak out to other young people—the way for youth to strive for gender equality is to spread the word. This can be done on social media, used by billions of people, or creating a club at school to inform the broader community.

GA: How did you feel when you visited the United Nations? What does the UN mean to you?

AM: The United Nations is a place where I can be myself and fight for what I believe in. It’s a place where those who have power can listen to what I have to say and do something about it. It’s a second home to me.

The UN means so much to me because there are so many important people I can look up to, who do so much to help the world around them. It’s full of people who actually care about changing the world. The world isn’t too small for them or too large for me to make a difference.

GA: What has been your favorite part of the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program?

AM: I liked many things about the NYC Junior Ambassadors program, including simulations of UN conferences, writing letters to the mayor, hosting the gender equality carnival, and creating an event to support those we have lost in school shootings.

The program was a lot of fun and my teachers did so much to make learning fun and inspiring. Every day was another life lesson. Each day was spent together planning for the future. It was an amazing experience and it got me to the UN, so I’m very grateful for it.

GA: We know sometimes the Global Goals can feel too big for any one person to achieve. What are some small actions everyone can take to achieve them? What advice do you have for young people?

AM: A few small things we can all do as individuals would be to research the UN and the Global Goals to learn more about them. To take action is something we can’t all do alone—having an adult around or just one more person to help you can do so much. You can figure out ways to accomplish the triple “Rs” – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, more efficiently.

Or, even more easily, just making compost for the plants in your neighborhood and teaching others about it can make a difference. My advice would be to pick one or two global goals to research, find an adult if you’re a young person like I am, or a friend to help you discuss what you want to do. We can all do something to help. You are never too small or too young to find what inspires you. Use that to move forward.

The NYC Junior Ambassadors program is an initiative of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs focused on empowering 7th graders across all five boroughs to become actively engaged with the United Nations by leveraging New York City’s unique position as host city to the UN headquarters. NYC Junior Ambassadors learn to see themselves as global citizens by using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the primary lens for understanding the work of the UN and related global issues, so that they can begin to take action locally starting in their own neighborhoods. Learn more about the program here:https://on.nyc.gov/2KGwXN9

Why is Leadership Important in Business Administration?

It doesn’t matter if you’re running a non-profit organization, a branch of government, or a for-profit enterprise: you will always need some kind of vision for the future of your group. You’ll also need leaders who can help plan and successfully execute that vision. Avensure HR services for nonprofits is amazing so have a look at that as well.

From motivating others to cooperate in completing necessary tasks to determining what tasks are essential in the first place – leadership has an enormous place within business. Below we’ll look more closely at the importance of leadership in business administration, and how leadership in the business world can be a valuable quality at all levels of an organization, from the lowest level employee to the CEO.

What is Leadership in the Business World?

So, what constitutes “good leadership” exactly? It’s a surprisingly difficult and rather subjective question to answer. In the business world, leadership can take a wide variety of forms. There are career tracks that require leadership as a fundamental aspect of their job description. At the highest levels, CEOs are the top strategists for an organization – literally the leader of their company. But underneath those high-level positions, leadership skills can remain invaluable in a variety of positions throughout an organization.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, a nonprofit leadership development organization that has worked with hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies, there are several key qualities of a leader. These qualities include empathy, courage, an ability to delegate, and learning agility — or an ability to learn quickly and apply that knowledge in critical situations. Communication skills are also highly prized among leaders. An effective communicator can not only better delegate tasks to members of their team and clearly convey information to them, as well as those at an executive level, but they can also apply the “courage” aspect of leadership and use their communication skills to broach new ideas that can drive value for the company and shake up the status quo in a good way. Learn from the best by checking out this harold matzner article.

And while the boardroom is a very different environment from a battlefield, the defining characteristics of leadership are quite similar between business leaders and military leaders. An ability to take decisive action is one of the most recognizable traits among leaders. Military research has shown that in battle, a private has about a 20% chance of initiating combat, while that figure is close to 70% for a senior officer. It’s often pretty much the same in the workplace. Taking initiative can be difficult. And if you don’t understand exactly what needs to be done — if you don’t see “the bigger picture” — then taking initiative can be particularly difficult.

For example, corporate trainers help to teach a variety of working professionals with the new kinds of skills that a company needs, which requires a strategic understanding of the company’s dynamic needs in relation to products and services. In other words, a “big picture” understanding.

Similarly, HR managers are involved with strategic planning, must understand individual talents and their relationship to the rest of the organization. And as with many other kinds of business administration careers, that comes down to leadership ability.

Why is Leadership Important in Business?

If you’re running a business, you might need to determine how to delegate responsibilities, deal with interpersonal conflicts, handle unexpected problems, and develop your vision for the company. Business administration leadership is a necessary ingredient for overcoming those kinds of problems.

In fact, the importance of leadership in business administration is hard to overstate. At the highest levels, the influence of a leader, good or bad, can resonate throughout an organization. It can motivate teammates and provide them with a purpose and direction. Good leadership can help to establish company culture and developmental direction of an organization. We have modern examples of great business leaders like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, as well as other historical examples.

Jack Welch helped grow General Electric, acquiring hundreds of companies and overseeing GE move from a valuation of $12 billion to $505 billion during his tenure. His leadership in evolving company operations to force employees to embrace change, hiring managers who he knew could keep employees engaged, and insisting they work side-by-side with employees to better understand their jobs. Those kinds of decisions can define and redefine and origination from the top down.

But even at lower levels of management and in roles that don’t (at first glance) appear to be leadership positions, leadership can be critical. Effective leadership in business can bolster and promote teamwork, cultivate a sense of greater good, motivate, inspire trust, or provide purpose and direction. In the immortal words of Steve Jobs, “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

Business Leadership Qualities

While we touched on valued leadership qualities and how those qualities transcend any scenario, four of the most important business leadership qualities include:

  1. Leading by example. – One of the best ways to inspire people is to practice what you preach. If you expect 110% from others, but then go home early, you might hurt morale. People want accountability from their leaders.
  2. Strong Communication Skills – As noted before, both written and verbal communication skills can be an essential part of leadership. Cognitive empathy, being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes, can be particularly important for becoming an effective communicator, and making a connection with those who you’re leading.
  3. Emotional Intelligence – In his famous best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, psychologist Daniel Goleman makes a compelling argument that good leaders are high in a trait he’s called “emotional intelligence.”  That includes self-awareness, empathy, motivation, social skills, and self-regulation abilities.
  4. Vision – Leaders need the ability to see “the big picture.” Doing that can require developing a large collection of both hard and soft skills. That might include the ability to see changing market trends, as well as spot openings in the market for new types of products.

But that’s just the beginning. You also need traits like teamwork, problem solving, motivational skills, analytical skills, conflict resolution, and others. Even learning to listen to feedback more effectively can make you a better leader and help you determine the style of business leadership you most want to convey later in your career.

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