What are the traits of a leader?
A group of high school students from different schools gathered to think about this topic to improve their ability to run their school clubs. The discussion started to become a game of one-word answers to tack onto a laundry list. It was kind of dry and uninteresting. And so I interjected, "Name one person in your life who you really admire, and describe why this person is someone you want to model yourself after." And from there the discussion blossomed. One student said her tennis coach, because he was kind, knowledgable, and determined. Another student said her dad, because he was resilient, committed, and loving.
And rather than go home with a laundry list of leadership traits, it was just easier to give them a simple, small task: Pick one of those traits and think about how you can be better at it. How can you show more kindness? How do you express more love?
In hindsight, it probably would’ve been better to ask them first: Tell me a time you expressed kindness to someone. When was a time you conveyed love? The reason I prefer to phrase the topic this way is because the first thing we must recognize that these students are already expressing these leadership traits. It’s presumptuous to say that they need to improve on something they already possess themselves. And if they do have a story to tell, then all I can say is to keep at it and do more of it!
What are your goals in life?
A rather heavy question, especially for young people who are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. It’s easier to break up the topic into steps.
Firstly, Thinking about how you grew up through your youth, was there something you experienced that you hope would never happen to your baby cousin, nephew/niece, or someone you adore who is younger than you? It’s a bit of a different take, but it provides a backdrop for why one chooses to live the way they do. Someone might talk about the difficulty of growing up with divorced parents. Another might be livid about youth having experienced trauma in some form. Yet another laments not being able to speak fluently with their grandparents in the native tongue, who raised them like second parents.
Secondly, we invert the first question by asking: Have you ever had a kind of life-changing moment that you would say contributes to what you enjoy doing or currently striving towards? So rather than focus on avoiding a negative as in the first question, we ask them about something they really like to do now that came from some fountain of inspiration. For myself, I because a graphic designer because of watching a Vietnamese student play performed by UCLA Vietnamese Student Union group. For although I have done art in high school, it was that theatrical production that determined my course in life for many years coming.
I think talking about what you want to do with your life is admirable. But orienting listeners to what compelled you to start on a path in life is more relatable.
Corporations engage in a game of talent poaching, which gives the professional worker a lot of latitude if they have the right skills to negotiate their pay, because they can ALWAYS find a company who needs them. Unfortunately this means that those who have the skills/experience get fought over, and those who don’t have it have to look for ways to improve their own appeal.
Sometimes you will see corporations invest in a less-than-ideal candidate to help them gain the necessary skills, but they always have to ask themselves if the person will one day just jump ship and work elsewhere, or hopefully stay and be a contributor.
I kinda imagine the whole situation like a game of poker. Every round all the big players put in chips (the amount of money invested in growing a person professionally), and at the end of the round, someone takes home the value of all of those personal investments. If you don’t have a lot of chips in hand, you only play rounds where you have a chance at gaining, right? You wouldn’t blindly jump into every round; you’ll just bleed to death doing so. Thus, for small businesses, it’s a really hard decision to want to hire someone and help them grow, because as much as we all want to help people grow professionally, some big fish will come along, take everything, and slap the little fish in the face.
To me, I can see why vocational and private for-profit schools are increasing in numbers; there is a need for people with skills, but companies are playing the poaching poker game where the few talented people gets most of the attention, and everyone else is left to their own to figure out how to improve themselves at their own expense.
Just an observation for now.
- Visionary - The annoying person in the group who always talks about dreams and ideas and asks everyone else when they gonna jump on the bandwagon (which is occupied only by him/her).
- Strategist - The realist who knows what’s going on in the world, can put together intricate plans for world domination, but doesn’t feel like doing anything about it because it’s too much of a bother.
- Administrator - The person who loves ticking checkboxes, scheduling meetings, writing agenda and minutes, and balancing budgets. Because numbers have names and feelings too, apparently.
- People-Person - The life of the party, counselor, and coach. Being everyone’s best friend, these folks are most likely invited to be a part of everyone’s groom/bridal party. In a few years, this will become their day job.
- Champion - The vanguard of ethics who does the right things and calls out the unethical behavior. The first person nominated to take care of public relations issues when shit hits the fan. Sometimes the last person to get invited to the afterparties.
Buys cars from in·sur·ance bro·kers
Left for a·ban·don·ment
And re·stores them back to sal·vage
Re·flec·tion of his life
Of re·build·ing post-ex·o·dus
Drift a·long o·pen Pa·cif·ic
Piece-by-piece re·fill his lost peace
Drift no lon·ger but drive!