Leadership is not about striving to control what is uncontrollable, but about creating the conditions for individuals, organisations and communities to effectively and creatively cope with threats and leverage opportunities for greater social impact. Through his article, Victor Carter provides a unique insight of his calling to leadership of the Youth Table: a collective of young people of colour, who have organised to ensure that the voices of young people across America are heard in Obama’s new national initiative My Brother’s Keeper.
Carter’s story illustrates how his ‘calling’ has developed from the adversities he faced growing up in New Orleans; a city he describes as having an abundance of potential and latent opportunity, yet strained by institutionalised social ideologies and conditions that put young people of colour at a disadvantage. In the midst of this uncertainty, Carter was able to not only find his leadership purpose but more importantly take action on it. I was attracted to this article through my own experience as a volunteer on the Handle the Jandal (HtJ) campaign, a Polynesian youth-led campaign in South Auckland, New Zealand, aimed at enabling youth leadership to take action on issues of importance to them regarding the enhancement of mental health and well-being for Polynesian young people. Through our own personal narratives we’ve been able to organise our constituency to attend to the issues they face as young Polynesian people. Many of their families migrated to New Zealand for better education and employment opportunities, and they experience the pressure of upholding their cultural community-based values, often in tension with the predominate western individualistic values in New Zealand systems. The connection between our narratives and leadership is thus twofold: it is what moves us forward and keeps us together. The road is long and the road is hard; we are prepared to go the whole way and it is our stories that remind and motivates us as leaders. Realising the aspirations of the Youth Table and HtJ (and campaigns/programmes alike) will only be gained through the efforts of a number of organisations in numerous sectors and at various levels, so I commend the article as a call to action.