How do you create a leader? Leaders are everywhere; from your favourite footy captain to the prime minister. But how do these types of people arise, and how do we raise people in the hope of inspiring them to leadership?
That was the question asked at the National Young Leaders Day, hosted in Brisbane, that I and a few other lucky Mullumbimby students were given the opportunity to attend.
This event brought together school students to listen to the stories of a variety of our country’s current leaders, influencers, and other important Australians in the hope of inspiring students like me to take up leadership opportunities in the future.
The National Young Leaders Day started out strongly, with David Hurley, the Governor-General of Australia, giving the first speech, discussing the importance of leadership and why people lead. He was quite the motivator.
His speech kept coming back to the idea that leaders work to keep the people who are best at an area in that area and that they are given opportunities to improve.
One line of his really stood out to me: ‘You need an ego to lead, but you can’t lead for your ego,’ and I really believed that he simply wanted to inspire students to take up future leadership roles.
Following on from the Governor-General were a variety of speakers, including Anastasia Woolmer, a world-renowned mathematician and memory expert; and former Broncos football captain, Darius Boyd. Musician Josh Pyke, and world-record-setting pilot Lachie Smart filled out the rest of the day. Each of these speakers gave anecdotes about their careers and experiences in leadership, including the burdens and challenges that come with the role.
While none was quite as powerfully spoken as the Governor-General, they all gave a unique insight into the potential challenges and opportunities a student could face. Common to every speaker was one aspect; they had all been ready to sacrifice something, whether time, energy, or other, easier choices, to take on the roles they thought were worthy.
This idea of having to be ready to accept loss in the role of a leader really struck me. I spent the rest of the day reflecting on this and the other ideas and views about leadership.
A matter of perspective
Eventually I decided to talk to some of my other classmates on the trip to find their perspective on the speakers.
While I resonated most strongly with the ideas put forward by the Governor-General, others in my class had a stronger response to Anastasia. One classmate told me, ‘I felt she spoke more to kids our age, kids going through high school’.
Other classmates told me that they were struck by the idea put forward – partly by the Governor-General, and even more so by Lachie Smart – of how challenging it is to lead and be put in charge of others, but how we need those types of people. One of them highlighted the point made by the Governor-General that ‘leadership isn’t about yourself, but the whole team’. This was later echoed by Lachie’s take that leaders must also work around the challenges facing people and how paramount it is for leaders to be flexible.
Calm and flexible
Singer Josh Pyke recounted his experience about how hard it is to stay calm and continue with your project when nothing is working. He spoke about his first major gig, when the curtain he was standing behind stopped opening about a quarter of the way up and he had to play the first song with the audience only able to see his knees.
Staying calm and being flexible in the face of hardship was a major point from all speakers, and my classmates and I all agreed it was quite inspiring.
Listening to these stories of leaders who are able to work around challenges, and who work both with and for those they’re leading, I started to reflect; what are our current leaders willing to give up in the pursuit of leading our nation? Or are they working with those they lead – us, as Australians? Or are they leading with their ego, or for their ego?
♦ Jack Murray is a year 11 student currently attending Mullumbimby High. He recently was selected to attend the Brisbane leadership excursion as one of the student representatives of the school.