A Jackson Fellow’s Project: The Nature of Youth Leadership

During their cohort year, Henry M. Jackson Leadership Fellows create a leadership project of their choice. These projects deepen the Fellows’ learning, provide a way to give back to the community, and advance leadership in their fields. Projects have ranged from a white paper on Senator Jackson’s relationship building to an event to draw high school youth to maritime industry careers. One Fellow developed her project into a book on how to bridge the political divide.

2020 Jackson Fellow Lacie West’s project on the Nature of Youth Leadership is a great example.  As Executive Director of the Service Board (tSB), a youth development organization, Lacie interviewed the Service Board’s youth leaders to learn how their views of leadership resonated with Senator Jackson’s model as outlined in the Foundation’s publication, The Nature of Leadership: Lessons from an Exemplary Statesman. This book highlights the Senator’s key values and principles, which includes being: Inquisitive, Visionary, Diligent, Pragmatic, Open, Honest, Determined, and Inspiring.

Lacie found the experience enlightening. She shares her thoughts and key takeaways from her interviews in this video, and her findings about each of the values are summarized below.

Leader = Inquisitive?  According to her youth leaders, a great leader asks lots of questions. Senator Jackson respected history and valued others’ expertise. He sought out information and experts who knew more than he did. The youth thought this separates a good leader from a great leader, knowing that you don’t know everything.

Leader = Visionary? Senator Jackson’s ability to see the big picture made him a successful guide for others to follow. All of the youth agreed that big-picture thinking allows you to see the future you want to create and to execute adaptable plans. Things can change quickly, so having different versions of your plan are a must to reach your goals.

Leader = Diligent? Senator Jackson  did his homework and valued his team. Several of the youth discussed the importance of working as a team to motivate each other to get things done. One high school senior said that great leaders want to succeed not for themselves, but for the sake of others; it’s a selfless act. She felt that Senator Jackson’s appreciation of others’ work reflected his diligence as a leader.

Leader = Pragmatic? Most of the youth indicated that leaders need to effectively solve problems by asking questions and getting feedback from others on the team, even those who don’t necessarily speak up frequently. One recent high school graduate shared, “leaders have to be willing to meet with others.” They have to want to do it, not just because it is their job. Senator Jackson motivated others by understanding what they valued.

Leader = Open? Senator Jackson respected others who did not necessarily agree with him.  Being open to understanding someone else allows for inclusiveness. One youth leader simply put it as “respect.” Another said, “You have to earn others’ respect for them to trust you.”

Leader = Honest? Senator Jackson set high standards for himself, including sticking with his beliefs and honoring the truth. The youth leaders connected honesty with courage, believing that great leaders must be courageous enough to speak the truth while knowing it might not be popular. Great leaders also must be brave to bring their true selves to every conversation and situation.

Leader = Determined? According to all the youth interviewed, great leaders must be responsible when making decisions because they affect many people around them. They have a responsibility to do what is best for others. All the youth leaders agreed that having and setting goals are important in leadership. And those goals should be realistic, organized, and prioritized.

Leader = Inspiring? One student put it best when he said, “Leaders have to fully believe in what they are trying to achieve.” If you do not believe in what you are doing, how will others believe in it? Senator Jackson knew how to get the best people on his team and keep them. The youth pointed out that inspirational leaders know how to make connections and focus on the community.

The values and principles that the Senator embodied endure today, as shown by this project. To read more of Lacie’s reflections, you can access her project here.

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