Connected, Creative, and Courageous: How Kids are Changing the World

If you are new to Let’s Grow Leaders, on Saturdays I have been doing a connected series on Developing Leadership in Kids. On Monday, I continue with grown-up leadership fare. Today’s post is multi-generational in nature and should be of interest to leaders of all ages.

“Social media is about building a platform for leaders who used to be ignored.”

Don’t get me wrong, the grown-ups at TEDxWomen had a lot of important ideas to share. What we all found miraculous, however, were the young, connected women and girls changing the world through social media. Emily May founded the Hollaback Association to combatting street harassment by empowering women to leverage their cellphones and other technology.

Anita Sarkeesian is deconstructing the stereotypes associated with women in popular culture. She took on the gaming world with a fundraising campaign to fight against the depictions of women. She became the target of a wide-spread bullying campaign, and suffered multiple outrageous threats. She stood up to the connected bullies.

The subjects these young women are fighting against are so sensitive that they might not be suitable for some of my younger padawan readers, so I am purposely leaving out the direct links to their talks.

Julia and Izze: Connected For Good

Julia Bluhm and Izze Cabbe have a story appropriate for all Padawan viewing this Saturday morning. I hope you will share it with your tweens and teenagers. Julia and Izze are feminist activists. As part of a SPARK Movement action, they used the power of social media to share a successful petition asking 17 magazine to stop photoshopping the faces and bodies of women.

Click on their names to view the talk. You can easily advance though the introductory stuff and start it a 6:14.

Izzy shares…

“So a lot of kids are sitting at home with things they want to change but are not changing them because they think they can’t because they are only a teenager.”

They both then give insights as to how youth can get involved to make a difference.

Of course, if you just want a “the worlds going to be all right in hands like these” kind of feeling this Saturday morning, watch Brittany Wenger’s talk.

Brittany began studying neural networks when she was in the seventh grade. And this year, she won the grand prize in the 2012 Google Science Fair for her project, “Global Neural Network Cloud Service for Breast Cancer.” The resulting Cloud4Cancer service aggregates data from biopsies done with the fine-needle aspiration process, instead of the traditional and more painful surgical option.

We have a generation with many promising connected, creative and courageous youth. I encourage you to share their stories as inspiration for both youth and adults. We all have the power to use social media to change the world.

Lead Me Please: Developing Leadership Standby Skills

This weekend, I attended the TEDxWomen’s conference in Washington, DC. The theme was “The Space Between.” Women and men sharing amazing stories about the magic that can happen in the convergence of extremes.

“One day you will want to say, this is actually the right thing to do. And when you turn around, they are following you. I just want you ready for every single moment of leadership that comes your way.”

As I sat fascinated by the courageous stories of powerful women, I kept thinking, “huh, that sure wasn’t on their life map.” For most of these speakers, they weren’t out looking for opportunities to lead. They didn’t have a five-year plan to get onto TED. They found themselves in situations that ignited their passion wars, accidents, loss, violation of human rights. Their life got disrupted. They took action. They began to lead. Most of these women don’t fit the image of a traditional leader. I doubt most were in anyone’s “binders of women” or succession list. And yet, when they started doing the right thing, people followed.

Why Prepare?

So often, I hear people say. “Oh, I am not a leader.” That may work fine in most circumstances. The world needs great followers. But what happens when your passion erupts, and everyone is looking at you. You must prepare to be a leader because someday…

  • Life will bring you a disruption you can’t ignore
  • You will need to take a stand
  • Your heart won’t be able to turn away
  • No one else will care as much as you
  • Your passion will trump that voice in your head that says, “I am not a leader”

How to Prepare to Lead

Charlotte Beers shared her stories of why preparation matters, in her talk on the Space Between EQ and IQ. She also offers 3 vital skills everyone should cultivate to prepare for the toughest scenes in life. Personal Clarity: Getting underneath the personal traits and experiences driving your behavior Memorability: Honing your communication with a keen focus on the listener, “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear” Persuasiveness: Harnessing your passion to attract others to follow I connected with Charlotte to ask for her advice. “What advice do you have for persuading reluctant leaders that they should and can prepare to lead?” Her answer…

When you want to lead in a crisis..you can’t UNLESS you’ve been practicing stepping out to lead on many small things. Watch who you are in those moments and rehearse saying it with clarity, memorably and persuasively. You’ll blow it sometime. So what, it’s only work.

In today’s connected world, I am not sure “if leaders are born or made” is the relevant question. We can all have a platform. The bigger question is, will be ready to use it?

Face Time or Face Time?

“We live in a world that is connected 24X7, but loneliness is at an all time high. We are trying to find our way”

Elizabeth Lindsey, Explorer and Way Finder, see her 2012 TEDxWomen talk

I walked into his office with a long list of updates to cover. We realized we hadn’t seen each other in quite a while, and both commented on how much better it is that we could do so much virtually. The video conferences and conference calls were working quite well. It’s much more productive without all the travel. It’s a huge relief to avoid long road trips for short meetings.

And then we both realized, almost simultaneously that what we needed to talk about most was not on the list. It must have been the look in my eyes. That look would never have been noticed over a video conference. We had one of the best conversations ever, we both left with some important next steps. We both felt better. We never got to the list I had walked in with.

Somethings are just better in person.

Face Time Choices

I know this, I feel the same thing with my team. And yet of course there are tradeoffs. Time, travel costs, travel fatigue.

I was particularly stuck by Michele Cushatt’s recent post, Why Face Time (the real kind) Matters, I agree with her insights. Technology is great for keeping us connected, and it can also be abused. I find it ridiculous when people will dial into a conference call when most of the participants are sitting in the same building. As Michele says, Because there’s “something magical about being face-to-face with another living, breathing human.”

So here’s the rub.

You can’t have face time with all the people that matter at the same time.

If you travel to be with your team, you miss having dinner with your family or reading a book at bedtime or the homework frustration. Of course you can Skype or use “Face Time”.. even with a bed time story, but it’s just not the same.

If you chose to call into the meeting, you miss that important conversation that would have happened on the break. You may also miss the chance to bump into your old boss in the cafeteria who has a great new opportunity that would be just right for you. You miss the important trust that’s built by a team hanging out together.

Of course, there are lots of important approaches to maximizing remote relationships. Remote teams and employees can be very productive. I share some of this in my post,  Long Distance Leadership: Can Distance Drive Engagement and Results,. After years of leading remote teams, I also know it is vital to “show up in person more than is practical.”

So, what’s the right ratio? What’s the right time? How do you know it’s time to get on a plane? How do you choose between face time and face time?

The amount of time between visits?
The stage of the relationship or team?
The personalities involved?
The current results?