What is a leader for you? If I ask you If you are one, what would be your answer?

Leadership is a difficult word to describe. We often associate it with people that played an important role in history. With people who “changed the world”. With people that have a lot of power, that lead organizations or countries.

“We’ve taken this title of leader, and we treat it as if it’s something that one day we’re going to deserve.” (Drew Dudley)

This was my perception of leadership two years ago, something that is not for everyone and difficult to reach. But then I met AIESEC, the biggest youth organization in the world that is present in more than 100 countries and territories, and that gives the opportunity to young people between 18 and 30 years old to do an international volunteering experience or an internship abroad.

The organization was born after the second world war. The purpose to prevent similar conflicts, striving to achieve peace and fulfillment of humankind’s potential since it’s foundation.

But how did AIESEC make me realize that my perception of leadership was wrong!?

AIESEC believes that the world is defined by the people who live in it, and to make a positive impact in the world and people around us is necessary to develop youth leadership, because the young people of today, are the leaders of tomorrow. Two of the ways that AIESEC does it is by providing practical experiences in diverse and challenging environments, and by giving the chance to young people to be part of the teams that provide these cross-cultural exchanges.

With AIESEC I realized that we shouldn’t treat leadership as something beyond us, but something that we can all develop.

By being interested in what is happening in the world, by believing that we can make a difference and enjoy taking responsibility for improving it, not just act to satisfy what we need, but also the people around us, we are being leaders, we are being world citizens.

But not just that…

What makes a person a good leader is also the ability to have a positive impact in someone’s life, the ability to develop and empower others to give their best, help them to achieve their goals, make them understand the value of their actions and show gratitude for it.

It’s the ability to empower others.

A leader is also someone that, even in uncertain times, like the one that we are living, transmits positivity to move forward, adapts and shows resilience in the face of problems, treats them as challenges and is always looking for solutions to resolve them. Is someone that doesn’t let her or himself be overcome by fear, taking risks when needed. What makes a person a leader is also the ability to be solution oriented.

Just by knowing our values and living according to it, contributing to a bigger cause by focusing on our strengths instead of our weaknesses and exploring what we are passionate about, we are being leaders. Why!? Because by doing it we are more aware of our actions and what we need to do to accomplish our ambition and improve as individuals. The ability to be self-aware is another characteristic that makes someone a leader.

This is the type of leadership that we need nowadays, especially now! By staying at home and taking responsibility not just for ourselves, but for everyone’s safety. Adapting to this situation and seeing it as an opportunity. Using our free time to do things that we love and stay connected with the people that we care about, we are being leaders.

So now I ask you again: What is a leader for you? Do you believe that you are one?


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Author:Helena Rodrigues da Costa

Helena has worked at AIESEC in Portugal, since July 2018, where she executed 5 different job descriptions. Currently, she is Director of the International Volunteering Experiences Department. She is in the last year of her Management Degree at ISCTE Business School.

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