As a professor who teaches leadership and negotiation, I know that innovation begins when young women, and young men, feel inspired to action. For example, that call may be sparked when a young woman notices an injustice, inequality or just plain inefficiency and mobilizes her peers, school, or organizations to inspire new solutions and fresh perspectives. Effective leaders know how to place a high value on the perspectives of others, to value diversity, to communicate tough truths, and often to make trade-offs, which may even disappoint people, at times.
Many young women, including those from underrepresented communities are very effective problem-solvers, especially in their families, but some hesitate to think of themselves as “leaders.” Some people continue to feel that a leader ought to look a certain way – for example to be tall, or to be male and so forth.
By shining a light on young women leading change in their communities, especially those from diverse backgrounds, we send a strong message to other young women that they can be leaders in their own way, in their own style, and in the context of their own values.
When girls, young women, and their mentors have a platform to share their stories of leadership, our collective understanding of leadership is enriched. Stories help us to recognize strengths and virtues. They also help people to become better observers and diagnosticians of leadership challenges. The very best leadership stories may be those that show how leaders may also need to honor vulnerabilities and uncertainties, within themselves and others, if they are to move past them to help communities solve the tough problems that really matter.
As we celebrate the leadership of young women, inviting authentic stories from young women, and those who support them, brings more voices into the conversation and brings more women to the leadership table.
This month, StoryCorps and the White House Champions of Change program are working together to encourage young women and their mentors to document and share their efforts to their stories, and ultimately bring visibility to this next generation of leadership talent.
StoryCorps has pulled together Animated Shorts and Audio selections from their archives to share the stories of creative leadership, outside the usual mold. Their stories are a reminder that we all have a story to tell.
On Tuesday, September 15, the White House will host a Champions of Change event to honor young women empowering communities. At this live-streamed event, the Champions will engage in a dialogue and share their stories of everyday leadership in the service of improving the lives of others.
You can use the StoryCorps app to record your interview, then post it on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #ImagineHer
To record an interview using the StoryCorps app:
For more information about recording your interview, visit the StoryCorps website.
Kimberlyn Leary is an Advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls.