July 10, 2015
I recently returned from Afghanistan where I was a guest lecturer for the Swiss UMEF University, located in Kabul. During my time there, I gave many lectures on leadership, a fascinating and ever-changing topic. Philosophies, opinions and practices of leadership vary. The pragmatic side of leadership is also ever-present as people try to figure out if they should follow higher principles of leading or simply “play the game” that’s already in place. It can be complex, especially in corrupt countries and organizations. But as I work with young leaders around the world, I find hope – hope that a new generation will stand up, do what’s right and make a difference.
I thought it would be interesting to ask young leaders, each from a different part of the world, to share their views on what is needed in their particular region and what makes a good leader. I reached out some of Global Next’s representatives, contributors and friends around the world to find out what mattered to them. I simply posed two questions: First, What do you believe is currently the biggest leadership need in your region? and second, What do you believe is the most important quality a leader must possess in order to be effective in today’s world? Here’s what they said:
PAKISTAN: AMMAR AJMAL (Global Next Regional Representative: Peshawar, Pakistan)
- I am from Peshawar, Pakistan, a place that has been under siege by militants for the past decade. Pakistan has faced leadership turmoil since its inception. There have been different leaders with different leadership traits. From autocracy to military leadership to democracy, Pakistan has seen it all. However, the biggest leadership need at the present is Vision, Commitment, Courage and Strategic Planning. As Pakistan is facing serious resistance by the militant groups and with ongoing operations against them by the Pakistani Military, the current leadership must show commitment, courage and strategic planning to eradicate the enemy of the state, have a vision for the betterment of the nation and its prosperity and most importantly, the leadership must achieve international cooperation with its neighboring states to achieve regional peace.
- The most important quality that a leader must possess is courage. Without this, no one can become a great leader. Courage to lead its nation, courage to build the nation, courage to do what is right despite anyone’s opposition. As Winston C Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
DENMARK: SIMON SKIPPER CHRISTIANSEN (Photo Journalist: Copenhagen, Denmark)
- Here in Denmark, I feel that some people in our region are a little complacent, satisfied with our high level of welfare and not feeling the urge to develop themselves or their surroundings much further. So you might consider that a lack of motivation or singleness of purpose is our greatest leadership need.
- It’s hard to come up with just one answer as to the most important quality a leader should have… But I believe a true leader must be unstoppable but also sincere. He or she should lead from the front and be willing to do what (s)he asks from others. If people don’t sympathize with you they surely won’t follow your orders, directions or advice for long, so given that all leaders are already motivated/unstoppable in their attitude, I’ll use sincerity as my main answer.
USA: CARTER HELTON (Global Next Youth Representative: Florida)
- I am an American college student. The biggest leadership need in my region is focus. With all the demands of the world today, it is easy to get stretched too thin and not really be effective at anything. We need leaders who can keep focused on one or two major tasks at hand in order to accomplish a greater goal.
- The most important quality a leader must have in today’s world is consistency in all aspects of life. Too many times in this world we see leaders teaching a good, honorable, truthful message, but the way they live their life is not consistent with what they say they believe. It is important for a leader to not only teach the truth, but live the truth.
AFGHANISTAN: NAWEED YOSOFI (One of my MBA students/employee of Afghan United Bank: Kabul, Afghanistan)
- With many decades of war and a dark story in Afghanistan, Afghan people have witnessed different leadership styles and methodologies. Some leaders have been for the sake of the nation and some others have been against the national welfare. We have seen leaders who were very honest towards the country and we had seen leaders who were destroying the name and fame of Afghanistan. Since we have been in the darkness of war and illiteracy, we never knew who can do the best for us. Now Afghanistan needs a great leader to be honest, dedicated, brave, strategic and one who knows the people and feels their pain! More than anything we need a leader who can bring peace and provide food and shelter to needy people.
- I think a great leader should be honest, dedicated, understanding, and brave. From my point of view a good quality for leaders is bravery! A true leader is brave and will take any risk and fight for the welfare of his nation. A great leader is the one who stands for the favor of his country without fear. A beloved leader is the one who bravely stand with people, works with people and dies for people!
GERMANY: SIMON LEUTZ (Business student and Contributor for Global Next: Nuremberg, Germany )
- One of the biggest leadership needs in Germany is people and leaders who have the Courage to speak the truth (own opinion). Especially in times of difficult financial problems in Germany. There is always the temptation to speak what people want to hear. And having said this, we also need problem-solving politicians leading in Germany.
- One of the most important qualities a leader must possess to be effective in this world is enthusiasm. If a leader is enthusiastic about his opinions and statements he is able to motivate other people. “You can ignite in other only the fire that burns in yourself.” (Augustinus).
IRAQ: ARY RASOOL (Regional Director, Global Next: Erbil, Iraq)
- Iraqi youths have many leadership qualities. They are decisive and excel at making good decisions in most situations. However, youths of my society still lack some leadership qualities. One of the biggest leadership needs in my region is Self-Motivation. Iraq is currently in a political and economical crises. The quality of Self-Motivation is very vital for youths in my community to improve leadership. After 2011, Iraq (especially the northern part) experienced enormous economical development. Many international companies came to invest in Iraq. The unemployment rate decreased. Young people were able to make more money. They had an awesome chance to meet people from various cultures and learn many leadership qualities from them. But after the emergence of ISIS in August 2014, Youths became less motivated because the ideology of Islamic conservatism spread in the country. A few groups of youths even joined them. Other groups of youths were against that ideology, and they became less confident and scared to share their ideas and motivations with others in the community.
- If we look at the matter in a bigger picture, I believe, the most important quality a leader must possess to be effective in today’s world is the ability to Inspire and motivates others.
EGYPT: MOHAMAD RAGAIE (Global Next Consultant: Cairo, Egypt)
- I am from Cairo, Egypt, where the famous “revolution” happened on January 25th, 2011. And then the “second” one happened on June 30, 2013. Some people call the second “revolution” a military coup. From my humble point of view, the biggest leadership need in my region now is a mix between: Truth, Wisdom, Teachability, Persistence and Influence. When you have Truth, you will not lie to others and more importantly, you won’t deceive yourself. You will know what is true and what is not. If you are wise, then you will know what, when and where to act. If you are true and authentic to yourself and in front of others, and when you exhibit wisdom, then you will begin to understand the importance of learning and being teachable, whatever your past experience has been. In leadership, you should also know that you won’t necessarily succeed easily from your first effort; you have to be persistent. And finally, if you have all of those qualities and follow the right vision, I believe you will influence people to follow you.
- Having given the answer above, if I have to choose one quality that would be essential for a leader to be effective, it would be “Truth.” If you recognize truth, if you are true before others, yourself and God, you will have all the important, needed or required qualities to make wise decisions and to lead the right way. And even if you fail from time to time, get yourself up again and gather people around you to help you with your leadership. Becoming a great leader is a process.
I am thankful for each of these young leaders- most of them university students or young business professionals – for sharing their ideas and passions. One things is true for all – the world needs leadership – leadership that serves humanity and wants to be part of something bigger than just themselves. And while global problems may seem overwhelming – each of us has the opportunity to impact the world immediately around us. Leading with integrity where we are, in every way that we can – will begin to produce change. Maybe small at first – but with the potential to grow, and gather momentum and spill out of ourselves and onto the world around us. And in the end, you never know how far your influence might go.