What are the most fundamental competencies of a youth leader?
As a work psychologist specialist, I think that leadership is not about power or natural inclination but is about a mix of many factors: socio-cultural conditions, knowledge, skills and more. Being a youth leader is hard work and requires specific skills like real knowledge of youth issues in general and of one’s specific community; or like the ability to transmit innovative content in an inclusive way, with empathy and aiming at the empowerment of the people around them.
I worked a lot as an activist and in all of these years I have got to know and stay in contact with many leaders: I think that the best leaders have in common the ability to inspire others, with inclusive and empathic communication. It is essential for youth leaders to be able to communicate: not as a “chatterbox” but as sources of inspiration. And our challenge is to give everyone the same opportunity to become a leader.
How can we stimulate to have more youth leaders?
In my experience, I’ve seen 3 ways that work very well to stimulate to have more youth leaders: training, opportunity, and space in relevant decision-making positions. More specifically: there is no formally defined training path that can teach young people on how to become a leader; but there are knowledge, skills and aspects of emotional and social intelligence that can be enhanced and trained with specific training.
It is important that young people have opportunities to experience and test what they have learned: so that it can be used and not set aside. Finally, if young people had more space in decision-making bodies, then the perception of bringing real change to the world would be much more real. This would stimulate young people not only to reflect more but also to devise realistic projects to solve today’s problems in a creative way.
What kind of youth leaders do we need for today?
When I think of the kind of leaders we need today, I always think of people like Greta Thunberg or Malala Yousafzai: passionate, inspirational people who manage to create youthful involvement and participation around great problems in the history of modern society. leaders like them are important because they invite us to reflect and influence as many people as possible. In Italy, in a historical moment characterized by youth inactivism, the presence of youth leaders is necessary for this reason: it allows young people to give not only an appeal for hope and real change, but above all give them the awareness that their thoughts will find space in the voice of these leaders.
What kind of youth leaders do we need for tomorrow?
I dream of leadership that is not in the singular: I dream of co-leadership.
I think that if we create a real involvement and participation of young people in terms of civic and political commitment, it is not impossible to think of a “co-leadership”. Co-leadership means you have two or more people equally sharing power and influence over a project or political agenda, rather than a single leader. This kind of leadership has a lot of benefits: a variety of skill sets, different points of view, more creative and inclusive solutions, sharing of knowledge openly, and increase teamwork and commitment.
Important challenges await us for the next few years, such as climate change, economic problems, and gender equality; and to win them, the commitment of each of us is necessary: co-leadership would have a considerable social impact, it would give value to the potential of each of us young people.