Leadership is expressed, defined and portrayed in different ways and varies according to personal experience, opinion and insight. I believe that we can define leadership in a broader sense that expands away from the confines of humanitarian work and can delve into different worlds such as the world of music, the world of literature, art, sport and so forth. Among the first questions posed during RedTalk #12 was whether or not we could consider public figures such as Lionel Messi or Justin Bieber to be youth leaders. Although opinions may vary on the subject, I truly believe that individuals pertaining not only to the humanitarian field, but perhaps involved in entertainment, may, indeed, be considered youth leaders.
Following the same line of thought, we can refer time and time again to major, perhaps influential, teen-artists such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber. So is Justin Bieber a youth leader? At the blossoming age of 18, the Canadian singer has gathered around 23 million followers on twitter and an additional or complementary 44 million followers on facebook. Although the number of “followers” one may have on social networks does not fully or accurately indicate whether or not a person can be considered a youth leader, it does provide some insight into who that person is, and perhaps the amount of people that feel either connected to the individual, or inspired, on various levels.
If we were to address this issue from a PR, marketing, or advertising point of view, I think we would all agree that figures such as Justin Bieber are considered to be, indeed, opinion leaders. Opinion leaders are considered to be individuals whose ideas, behaviors, and messages serve as a model to others. Opinion leaders communicate and, through this act, influence, directly or indirectly, the attitudes and behaviors of their followers. So why isn’t Justin Bieber considered to be a youth leader? On many levels, definitions surrounding opinion leaders resonate and can be paralleled to those surrounding youth leaders.
Today, youth is on the move. Times have changed, surroundings have changed, and people have changed. In this globalized world, leadership and its percussions have changed as well. Leadership comes in many shapes and molds into different forms depending on the surroundings, the atmosphere and the people.
Leaders can be defined as individuals that guide, influence, and organize a group of people to reach a common goal, as panelists have suggested, but leadership can also be defined and expressed in the act of bringing communities, bringing people, together through positive change, through the emulation of influence. One key point that can be found and refound in youth leaders or opinion leaders is the element of role model. Throughout history, role models have existed to guide, inspire and organize individuals and communities.
Youth leadership should not be solely limited to a certain field or a certain perception. As the saying goes, someone’s garbage can be someone else’s gold. The core elements that define who a youth leader is can also be found in the values of role models and opinion leaders. And, thus, actors, singers, soccer players and painters can be considered youth leaders for their immediate followers. The feelings and emotions that are emitted by youth leaders- those of guiding, inspiring and organizing- can be clearly distinguished by these ‘modern’ leaders as well.
Theodora Filip is a 20-year-old student.
What about you? What do you think about youth leadership? Watch the recording of RedTalk #12 and then tell us what you think in the comments.