Young people ask me, “What can we do to become good global citizens?” And I always tell them: “Begin in your community, begin at your university, begin in your own little town. If you see something wrong that you want to do something about, organize with your friends and take it up. It doesn’t have to be something big”.
– Former UN Secretary Kofi Annan
I love that quote. If you want to hear Mr. Annan himself, the quote is roughly at 0.30 in the video here. Mr. Annan’s point is, that you should never let the size of your wallet, network or personal status discourage you from taking up a task that could potentially make a positive difference for others (and even for yourself). Anyone can make an impact on the world by focusing on the problems in their own communities, rounding up the local talent and taking the first step.
I truly believe that none of us were born only to follow. Everybody has a leader in herself or himself. Often, small steps make a very big impact on communities and the people in them. Maybe the first moves don’t make a big difference, but often the leadership of one person inspires others to take up their passions and really make a difference which then inspires others and so on.
The key is proactivity, good listening skills and taking the lead. In other words: Don’t hold back!, listen to the people effected by your work in order to identify problems that actually need solving and make sure that you are worth following.
Maybe you read this now and think: “What is she talking about? – ‘proactivity’, good listening skills’, …’worth following’?”.
If you have not already I will recommend that you read up on the concept of proactivity. One of the most famous sources is Stephen R. Covey’s “7 great habits” (the first habit is proactivity). Mr. Covey explains how it makes sense to stop being passive and start being proactive. Stop making excuses and start taking responsibility for yourself, your actions and your life. In order to be an active citizen, all you have to do is take this good personal habit and expand it to taking responsability for the community you live in. Stephan R. Covey explains it (roughly) like this: The word responsability is a word made of two words – “response” and “ability”. To be responsable is to have the ability to respond to the challenges that come our way.
“Good listening skills”…why? Because if we don’t listen to the people who are affected by the work we do we could end up spending a lot of energy on making very little impact. It makes sense to take the time to deduct the causes of a particular problem before embarking on a solution.
“Are you worth following?”…well, referring to what I wrote earlier in this post, you should be! In my experience. Proactive people with great listening skills are always worth following, so if you got the first two down all you have to do is take that essential first step to become a good global citizen.