I recently attended the 4th International Youth Leadership Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I had a wonderful time meeting like-minded delegates from across the world. I want to say a huge thank you to the Global Leadership Program for exposing me to this opportunity. It was a life-changing experience.
There were 20 delegates from around the world and were chosen on the basis of academic merit and a personal essay. I have now learnt is that it is better to try and fail then to not try at all as initially, when I applied for the Conference I felt my grades were too low, however, I applied anyway and was fortunate enough to be chosen. The conference was five days and we stayed in a luxurious hotel in the heart of Dubai. The opening address by William Webster, the founder of Civic Concepts International, encouraged us all to not hold back, to talk to everyone, to challenge ourselves by putting our own thoughts and feelings out on the table for everyone to critique and, most of all, to learn from others and employ the skills we learn into our daily lives back home.
The delegates came from all parts of the globe: Qatar, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Mexico, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lebanon and Australia. I was able to learn about different issues facing each of the delegates personally that weren’t filtered through a media outlet. I was able to talk to a young woman my age who fears for her life every time she walks out onto the street in Beirut, Lebanon, because of the bombings. I spoke to a young Kurdish man from Iraq, who explained that he felt an identity crisis every time people asked him where he was from. I explored Eastern European history with a young man from Bulgaria who had an amazing sense of drive because he felt he wouldn’t ever get out of Bulgaria. And I was able to talk to a young woman from Canada, who was currently living in Qatar who talked about what it was like being a western woman in a Middle Eastern country.
I took notes whenever I could. Inspirational leaders from Price Waterhouse Coopers, the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding came to talk to us and provide us with challenges to discuss and consider: Instead of reacting, think and be proactive; Be prepared to provide solutions when you complain; Develop your ability to adapt to change; Don’t be discouraged by inspiring people – grow with them; Be open; Challenge yourself; and one of the most important points to remember: A leader is made.
You can be a leader in any field, in any group, in any setting. Being a leader is about being confident in yourself and making others confident in themselves. Lift others up, don’t put them down. What heroes do once, leaders do every day.