In our field, systems, and relationships teeter-totter between structured and organic.
Although our roots call us to be relationship driven, the push to professionalize ourselves and claim a noticeable and valued function in education has forced us to be more structured than ever. The current leadership in youth work has effectively created a pathway that balances the beauty of an organic team and the usefulness of structured planning. I believe this pathway was created by two things: a new wave of leadership and the fearlessness to seek to understand.
Past leaders established youth work as a line of work that merits almost saint hood.
Employment that celebrated altruistic endeavors as pertinent compensation. This virtue propelled our elders to advocate for youth when no one would and create platforms where youth voices were heard and their talents showcased. The rules of the game were established and cause-driven work was initiated. It is evident that forthcoming leaders are grateful to the founding leaders of youth work. Unfortunately, at times youth work leaders are so passionate about their role in establishing the groundwork that they lead with blinders on. They lead by nurturing leaders with their wisdom and experiences and fail to couple it with data driven dialogues that will make our work relevant to the youth we serve. This type of leadership forms a culture of where the leader becomes the sage on the stage. Spotlights must be on them and unfortunately, that spotlight blurs their focus and intention at times.
There’s a new approach to leadership that has embraced a creative team approach.
This new wave of leaders is not discriminatory and its make up is eclectic. From elders to millennials, we are lucky to be able to anticipate the path ahead and prepare for it. We discovered that with this lack of mystery comes a fearlessness that allows us to trust each other and creatively work together against adverse forces. We have learned to use technology to our advantage, to make us work and think faster than ever. Simultaneously, making us aware that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’. There is a sense of safety that comes when one realizes that as current leaders not ONE of us knows everything, that ALL of us have an ingredient of the secret sauce and we relish in the joy of a learning continuum that prompts us to seek to understand. We seek to understand not only each other on a personal level, but also our professional perspectives. It is not about us anymore. It is not only about the youth and families we serve, but also about each other.
I feel blessed to be part of this new wave of leadership. I’m adrenalized to evolve the capacity of youth work to the next level. Ride the wave!
I enjoy a green smoothie everyday for breakfast!
Author Profile: @csecada
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