There is something about youth that is infectious. “Young people” have more energy than us, they are generally more creative, and they are most certainly more honest than your average coworker. The only thing I have against “young people” is that by calling them that, I feel older every time. So perhaps, for the purpose of this blog, and given the context of the week I’ve just had, I’m going to refer to them as future leaders.
On October 25th, I welcomed 100 future leaders, all aged 16 – 18 at Sevenoaks School, for a week of intensive leadership coaching, challenges, and inspiring training sessions as a part of the National Citizen Service (NCS). As you should well know, this is not my day job. It is however, something I feel very passionate about. Lucky too considering the sales pitch for the programme was basically “get four hours sleep a night, do yoga every morning and evening, design training for people who would rather be on their phone than tolerate the misery of powerpoint, be on your feet all day, all while learning on the job. And take time out from your regular work of course.” Sounds great, right? Well, honestly, it is. And it’s something I wish more people had the option to do as part of corporate social responsibility, or better yet, personal development programmes. Yes, it’s exhausting, but I’m writing this blog at 7am on Monday morning more energised than I was over previous weeks, all becuase of the infecious nature of inspiration coupled with the naivity and promise of youth.
To give you some of the highlights, my team of 11 NCS future leaders designed a banner to highlight the journey I had helped take them on this week, and it was rather good.
Not only does the bus symbolise the literal journey we had down to London for their excursion – a day of challenges and a celebratory event in Parliament with 20+ MPs – but it also represents my first for-profit business, The Vault London, a mobile bar and popup events space inside an iconic double decker bus. It is also meant to be a refelction of the journey that each of the leaders had been on to get their place on this prestigeious programme, and where they will go afterwards.
For the record, invading Parliament with 100 future leaders and staff all in hoodies is every bit as fantastic as it sounds, and it’s a good reminder we’re in the 21st Century now. The only people who still hold onto stereotypes are the ones on their way out.
Of the 100 NCS leaders, I had the pleasure of working with a young man (I can’t reveal names for data protection and child safety) who had a rare neurological disorder effecting his ability to walk, show facial expressions, and his speech. As a result, it is a condition that is described by doctors as leading to a “life without a smile” and requires him to use a wheelchair. Yet despite this, it has failed to prevent him running – yes, running – marathons, climbing Snowdon, and giving one of the all time best comedy routines I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. When you amplify his enthusiasm by the other 10 NCS leaders I had in my group, what we had was really very special indeed, with each leader bringing their own skills, attitudes and personalities to the table.
The fact that I am able to impart some of the amusing anecdotes, inspiring quotes, and occasional good leadership and practical sense I have learnt in my (relatively) short years in business is of great importance to me. If I cannot share what I have learnt, then it seems quite wasted just tucked away in my brain, waiting to be forgotten. While my 16 year old self never have an opportunity to be on a programme as inspiring as the NCS, I take great heart in that I can help the youth of today in their journey to become the leaders of tomorrow.