Why age is just a number when it comes to leadership

Aug 17, 2017
Ben Parsons

All of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award Winners and Runners-Up are achieving incredible things in their communities across the Commonwealth, whether they are 18, 25, or 29 years old. Here we speak to some of this year’s ‘younger’ winners who are proving that age is just a number, and anyone is capable of becoming a leader.

ALEXANDER DEANS, 20 – CANADA

Alexander is an inventor who is using technology to help empower young people. He invented iAid, a navigation device which uses sonar technology to help those with visual impairments move around. 

The 2017 Queen's Young Leaders recieve their award from her majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT APPLYING FOR THE AWARD WHEN YOU WERE AT THE YOUNGER END OF THE AGE CATEGORY?

I think that my age gives me an advantage! I have a slightly different outlook on global issues that can help me innovate and lead for change.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S SOMETIMES DIFFICULT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A LEADER WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG? IF SO, HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THIS?

Sometimes, people do have trouble separating my age from what I do. But there have also been a lot of people who have supported me because of my young age and the hard work that I put in. They see untapped potential and are all the more willing to help.

 WHAT DID BECOMING A QUEEN’S YOUNG LEADER TEACH YOU ABOUT AGE?

As a part of a global family of Queen’s Young Leaders, I’ve learned that age is just a number. ALL the other Award winners aged 18 and 29, and everywhere in between, have been incredibly interested in my work and have become some of my best friends. So my advice is to apply for the Award no matter what your age is.

WHAT SKILLS HAS THE QUEEN’S YOUNG LEADERS AWARD HELPED YOU TO GAIN?

The Queen’s Young Leaders Award is LIFE-CHANGING. I’m part of a new global network of incredible leaders. It’s opened up opportunities for collaboration, inspiration, and jump-started me on a whole new leg of my project.

 

ASHLEIGH SMITH, 19 – NEW ZEALAND

Ashleigh is dedicated to reducing the problem of online bullying. She is co-leader and Vice-Chairperson of the board for Sticks n Stones, an organisation that focuses on positive action to avert the risk of cyber-bullying and aggressive online behaviour. 

The 2017 Queen's Young Leaders recieve their award from her majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT APPLYING FOR THE AWARD WHEN YOU WERE AT THE YOUNGER END OF THE AGE CATEGORY?

I guess I felt like there was very little chance I was good enough to receive an award like this, so really I felt quite unsure about applying.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S SOMETIMES DIFFICULT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A LEADER WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG? IF SO, HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THIS?

Yes! I’m very lucky I have support in my organisation to help stand up to this. It has taken me a long time to get the confidence to prove to people that I am more than my age.

WHAT DID BECOMING A QUEEN’S YOUNG LEADER TEACH YOU ABOUT AGE?

I have wonderful friends, but sometimes they don’t understand what it’s like to be so passionate about something and to carry such a weight on your shoulders at such a young age.The Queen’s Young Leaders connected me to people that are doing and feeling the same things as me. We share that passion.

WHAT SKILLS HAS THE QUEEN’S YOUNG LEADERS AWARD HELPED YOU TO GAIN?

It has helped me gain so many skills; I am so much more confident within myself. I feel like I have a right to share my voice and opinions, and as a young person my views matter. I really cannot put into words how much this Award has done for me!

 

JOEL BARAKA, 19 – UGANDA

Joel is focused on providing practical ways to address some of the challenges facing young refugees in Uganda, and encouraging them to engage in education.

The 2017 Queen's Young Leaders recieve their award from her majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT APPLYING FOR THE AWARD WHEN YOU WERE AT THE YOUNGER END OF THE AGE CATEGORY?

I had read about The Queen’s Young Leaders Award and I knew I met the criteria, but being 19 years old and knowing that it was open to those aged 18 to 29, I highly doubted my chances of making it onto the Programme. At first I felt that this Award was such a huge opportunity that an 18 or 19 year old wouldn’t stand a chance of winning it. It wasn’t until I made it to the first round that I began convincing myself that I had a chance of being one of the exceptional Award Winners.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S SOMETIMES DIFFICULT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A LEADER WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG? IF SO, HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THIS?

I’ve come to realise that it’s often difficult to be taken seriously as someone capable of influencing change, especially when you are young. Sometimes people will question and criticise your dreams and plans asking: What can you do at your age? Where will you get the money? Or others will start giving you examples of people who wanted to bring about change but failed.

How do I get over this? Simple. It’s very important for young people to understand their passions and purpose. This will motivate you and give you a sense of direction, even when others criticise or doubt your capabilities. Even when you fail, with the understanding of your passion and purpose, you will once again be motivated by the dream and goal of achieving what you want to accomplish.

WHAT DID BECOMING A QUEEN’S YOUNG LEADER TEACH YOU ABOUT AGE?

I have come to understand that age is just a number. If your brain can come up with that ’crazy/unachievable’ idea, then the same brain can help you accomplish it, regardless of age. You also don’t need large sums of money, as many may think. All you need is the passion and the sense of purpose for what you want to get done. I remember the first day I thought of developing an educational game that could summarise the Ugandan primary education curriculum. I was 17 and had no money but all I was sure of was that with hard work and trying everyday it would be possible.) – could also leave out this italicised section if needed

WHAT SKILLS HAS THE QUEEN’S YOUNG LEADERS AWARD HELPED YOU TO GAIN?

The programme has equipped me with skills of how to connect and work with other exceptional people that I meet. We should remember that people are the greatest resource any start up could have and so being able to connect and work with the right people, is the first step to achieving the task at hand.

 

Applications for the last ever Queen’s Young Leaders close in just four days! Don’t forget, applicants must be aged 18-29 throughout 2018, from a Commonwealth country and changing the community they live in. Apply here  #TheSearchIsOn

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