I came across a profound statement by Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General that “any society that does not succeed in tapping into the energy and creativity of its youth will be left behind.” I can say to each Rotaractor that tomorrow will be much better because of your vision and leadership. This is exactly what we are aiming for in Rotary — helping build Rotaract and helping Rotaractors develop and sharpen their leadership skills.
Remember one person can truly make a difference. Mohamed Bouazizi was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, which became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution. This was the inspiration for the Arab Spring against the autocratic regimes of the Middle East and the North African governments. That is the power of an individual to make a difference, to force change. Each one of you can be a power of change. You, the young people, are in a unique position to use innovation and technology to disrupt, to upend, and be the force that transforms our communities to do away with inequalities and create gender equal societies.
Believe in yourself, believe in your ability to do good in our world. Rotary is looking up to you to provide the leadership. To lead tomorrow, you must learn today. Let me share some qualities that make a successful leader.
Flexibility and adaptability. Softness always triumphs over hardness. What is malleable is always superior to what is immoveable. Therefore be more flexible, open and accepting to change and other people’s viewpoints.
Integrity and values: Flexibility does not mean compromising on principles. The most important quality of leadership is integrity and a sound value system. Integrity and leadership are closely linked. Mahatma Gandhi had no guns, no money but he had the power to move millions of people. They trusted his integrity and walked behind him. Character builds trust and trust makes leadership possible.
Lead by example: There is an old saying about leadership… “to show the way by going first”. This captures the essence of leadership. You can’t lead by pointing a finger at someplace and asking people to go there; you must go there first. When you do things that you want others to do, it gives you more credibility and conviction. Alexander the Great set the example of excellence with his leadership style; he led his troops literally from the front. When his troops went hungry or thirsty, he went hungry and thirsty; when their horses died beneath them and they had to walk, he did the same.
You have the opportunity to blaze a trail and leave behind a legacy, in your club and community, of which you can be proud, Rotary can be proud. Do your best as Rotary opens opportunities.
RI Director, 2019-21