By Jeff Becraft
“What I learned in Youth Corps is that you can lead from anywhere.”
That was a statement by a guy named Ryan who went through Youth Corps nine years ago. It is one of the most important principles that I hope that a person catches as they go through the YC process.
Years ago, there was an outdoor apparel/camo-for-hunters company that on their tag they had a picture of a wolf. Also on the tag, in big bold letters, were the words: Blend in or go hungry.
This is a somewhat dangerous statement to make because it could be easily misunderstood… but this is a dynamic of leadership that is usually not emphasized.
Usually what is emphasized in leadership is being up front, titles, standing out, on stage, in the spotlight.
Certainly some of those things are involved in being a front row leader.
But if that is all that we think of with leadership, then we and others can easily sit back and take on a spectator mentality. “I am simply showing up and I am going to see what happens. The person up front can take care of it.” It is easy to simply think that if I don’t have a title or I’m not up front, then neither do I have responsibility or opportunity.
Over the years, I have emphasized to our alumni who are helping out with Leadership Weekend for the new students, “You are just one of the group. You are one of the team. You lead by example. We don’t want to create a dichotomy where they simply see you as the leaders and then they sit back. We want them to jump into the action.”
Life is filled with intersections and opportunities. If we go into each intersection with the mentality that we are part of the fabric of everyday life and we can lead from anywhere… that we can positively influence, encourage, or shift someone’s life at that intersection… whether it be at a fast food joint, the grocery store, at home, at work, etc…. then we are no longer just a spectator waiting to see what happens, but a person who affects the atmosphere of that moment.
Instead of watching things happen, we can make things happen.
When we are shoulder to shoulder with people, just blending in (blending in?… I said it was a somewhat dangerous statement), it is an opportunity to lift them up, encourage them, and pull them in.
It also guards people’s dignity. When we go out to help victims of crime, we will say to the YC group, “It is very important that as we go to these sites, we are NOT going there with the attitude like we are the cavalry or something (that will make people feel small). That’s like saying we are more important and we are coming here to help you. We are going there to share an evening with them. Simply treat them the way you want to be treated. As you leave that evening, you can even say, ‘Thanks for letting us share in this evening with you!’ We want to guard people’s dignity (and that’s an important leadership principle).”
So in today’s moments and intersections, we can lead from anywhere… and lift up someone else’s life.
It’s a great day to have a great day!
Jeff Becraft is the Executive Director for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].