Leadership Where We’re Not Looking

There’s a lot of things that baffle me about this crazy world we live in. And I don’t mind not understanding it all. But there’s one thing that’s been really bothering me for a while now, and it’s something we need to have a discussion about.

And that is, how many times I’ve been asked “Are you studying business?”

I laugh every time because I really don’t understand why people who know almost nothing about me jump to that conclusion. Is it because I ventured into the community beyond the campus bubble? Is it because I care about things like politics and volunteering? Because of how I dress? Because I’ve taken the time to network and attend community events? Because I’m a young, white, educated middle-class person?

Whatever it is, it reflects a wider problem in our communities and society of how we envision leadership and who should step up into those roles. We shouldn’t presume that someone doesn’t have the capability or interest to be a leader based on their field of study or career.

We should be encouraging everybody to take some sort of leadership, volunteering or other role creating some sort of a positive impact in a community/other people’s lives, because everybody is capable of doing so, although it may not be in traditionally thought of ways.

Furthermore, why do business programs seem to be the only ones that teach their students about networking, innovation and entrepreneurship? Why do politicians only visit political science classes and student government meetings? If we truly want students to receive a well-rounded education to contribute to society in meaningful and diverse ways, then we need to offer well-rounded and diverse opportunities to all. We should be encouraging our education and psychology students to volunteer on a non-profit board. And we should be encouraging our business and engineering students to go volunteer in a school. And when a politician comes to talk on campus, we need to make sure everybody is invited, because their work impacts every single person on that campus, and voices from all areas should be represented and shared with them.

Diversity of leadership needs to be about more than race, gender and other traditionally thought of indicators of diversity. We need to be mindful of diversity of education, life experience, passions, skills, and whatever other unique perspectives individuals can bring to the table. I think it’s pretty cool that our current prime minister was a teacher, and not just your standard economist/lawyer/political scientist/other old rich white dude career, and I want to see this more often. We need to see this more often.

Now I know not every so-called ‘leader’ is a business person or political science major. I’ve been learning more and more that life tends to take you down unexpected paths, and those who are meant to lead seem to eventually find their way there no matter what their initial path was. But imagine what our communities could be like if we searched for and nurtured these leaders earlier on, instead of leaving them to find their own way there?

So in the meantime, I will continue to chuckle every time I respond with “I study childhood and I work in a school.” I’ll continue to not quite fit the stereotype of what a leader should look like, and I hope that you too can push aside your preconceived notions of who a leader should be, especially young ones, and offer such opportunities to all those who seek and are suited for them, regardless of whatever life or career path they’ve set out upon.