Today I was listening to a podcast on childhood, and though it was not particularly addressing it, I began to think of the implications that childhood has on someone’s ability to be a strong leader. The experiences of one’s childhood, whether good or bad, traumatic or mundane, will set the path for much of adulthood. And consequently, the kind of leader someone has the capacity to become.
Though much of what happens in our childhood is out of our control, how we choose to experience and interpret those events is very much in our control. We cannot choose our family members, the community and nation we are born into, our ethnicity, and even the culture and events around us that greatly define our identity, opportunities, and worldview. But we always have the ability to choose our response, our interpretations, and our subsequent actions. As children, this is often learned from our parents and others who have the ability to influence us such as spiritual leaders, teachers, and friends. We emulate those we respect and love. If we see them seeking to rise above the pressures and norms, to choose hope over despair, and to not be defined by external factors, how much greater is our potential to become like them.
I believe that the great leaders of our time, and of the past, are men and women who have grasped this understanding even as children. Regardless of the barriers and limitations of their lives, whether in childhood or adulthood, these great leaders chose to take the path less traveled. What often makes them great leaders is exactly that which society assumes would disqualify them – their meager upbringing, lack of opportunity, marginalization, and cultural associations. There’s no formula for leadership; no one thing added to another thing that always produces a strong leader. But I strongly believe that those who have the ability to rise above whatever comes their way will develop a characteristic that is absolutely crucial to leadership and successful adulthood.
Cultivate’s global partners are already leaders. They have seen and experienced trials and hardships that many of us cannot fathom. Though many people around them succumbed to negativity, desperation, and hopelessness, they made the choice to turn hardships into blessings. They are leaders in their own standing with the potential to grow even more, to further their impact and reach. Cultivate cannot produce leadership, but we can support leaders across the globe and walk alongside them as they step into greater leadership roles.
Imagine the kind of impact we can have when true leaders are supported and equipped so that they can lead, affect community change, and impact generations to come! That is the heart of Cultivate International. The far-reaching community impact that can only be accomplished when true leaders are encouraged, mobilized, and supported to live our the lives they have been called to.
We’re starting small, with only a handful of men and women in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. But small is never insignificant. I cannot wait to see what these leaders will accomplish, and the lives that will be deeply impacted by them. I know without a doubt that these leaders will be the examples that countless children will someday look up to and imitate.