A Leadership Challenge to High School Students

Last Friday I was honored to speak to high school students at the Nazarene Christian Academy (NCA) in Crowley, Texas at their career and college day. The NCA is a well-led organization (church and K-12 school) that is a shining light in our community. As I reflect on my interaction with the students, I wanted to share a few thoughts for the young followers of this blog about leadership habits for students, spefically: a leadership challenge to high school students. I want to challenge you to do the things I wished I had begun at your age.

I arrived in the United States two weeks shy of my 15th birthday. I entered the 11th grade. I barely spoke English. It was one of the most exciting—and the scariest—times in my life. I know as a young person, life can be challenging. It definitely was for me. So hang in there! Actually, I want you to do more than just hang in theremore than merely survive. I want you to thrive! And I am going to tell you how.

leadership habits for students

Five Secrets You Would Share with Yourself

I am going to share with you five secrets that I know you would tell yourself if you were in your thirties now “visiting” with your teenage-self. I know you’ve already heard the standard advice: work hard, value your family, honor people, make good grades, go to college, and dream big. I did these as a young person. I worked hard, made good grades, and became a doctor. These things are important. But these aren’t secrets, are they?

What I want to challenge you with today, I only wish I had begun as a teenager. But I did not learn of their power until my early thirties. Taking advantage of these five secrets now (if even on a small scale) will give you an enormous advantage in your 20’s, 30’s and beyond.

#1 – Read consistently.

I discovered this at age 32. It was life changing for me. I challenge you to start now as a young person. The reading I am talking about here is not studying for school. Studying to become a doctor involved so much reading; while important, this reading was not life-changing. Nor am I referring to the leisurely reading of fun novels like Harry Potter. I am talking about reading thought-provoking books like biographies, leadership material, history books—books that will make you think and challenge you to grow.

You may say that you don’t have time. You do. We all do. Here is how you start: commit to reading a certain number of pages per day. Currently I commit to reading 30 pages per day. That usually works out to about 5 to 6 books a month. If you read 10 pages a day, that would be about 1 to 2.5 books a month. You should be able to read 10 pages in 20 minutes. The key here is consistency. If you commit to this 20 minutes a day starting now, it will change your life. Will you accept my challenge?

#2 – Pursue God vigorously.

Here is why I believe in God: There is nothing on this earth that fills my heart like God. Nothing comes close. I have a loving family. I’ve had success, position, education and money. I have driven nice cars, traveled extensively, and led great organizations. I have been the boss, the “doctor in charge,” and visited with famous people. While these things are nice, at the end of the day these things are also fleeting. Life is short. Life can be cruel. Life can be sad.  But God is good. With God you have hope and joy. You have meaning and purpose. The God I believe in is Jesus of Nazareth.

Here is the trick: If you don’t pursue God you will not know Him, truly know Him—know Him enough to walk with Him daily. If you do not pursue Him, then you will pursue that other stuff. But if you do pursue Him, all the other stuff will be a part of your journey with Him. He will not be a small part of your life. He will be your life. And the other stuff will be just be that—stuff. How to pursue Him? Simple. Spend time with Him. Pray (keep a prayer list with the date you started praying for something). Read His Word. Again we’re talking about consistent daily time. I commit to a minimum of 30 minutes daily. You can start with 15 minutes. Will you accept my challenge?

#3 – Study leadership.

I was very happy to learn that the NCA offers a course on “Servant Leadership.” Some schools do now, but in most schools it is an elective. So why should you elect to study it—not just as a course but as a life long pursuit? Think about it, anything worthwhile is accomplished with people. Your role one day as a spouse and parent is a leadership role. As are your roles at work, at church, in the community, and with your friends.  If you want to do something meaningful with your life, you simply cannot do it alone. So how do you take people along on a great journey with you? How do you inspire people and motivate them and empower them?

Study leadership. Whether you aim to be a doctor, a pastor, a firefighter, a soldier – bringing people along with you is paramount to you fulfilling your life purpose. How do you study leadership? Read books about it, specifically biographies of successful leaders, and talk to people you consider to be effective leaders. So here again, will you accept my challenge?

#4 – Value relationships.

Growing up in a close church community I always valued relationships. However, I did not know the importance of them until my early thirties. Having the ability to build strong relationships with others is the very foundation of your success in life. Learn how to do it well. It is key to your leadership and to a life that aims to give rather than take. I accomplish my greatest dreams with those closest to me at work and outside of work. The question is: Will I have the courage to build solid relationships? So I challenge you, my young friend, wherever you find yourself to build the best, warmest relationships you can.

#5 – Be intentional about personal growth.

The first four points are all related to personal growth.  So in closing, I want to be clear that personal growth is not automatic. It is intentional. Sure, life will randomly teach you lessons along the way. However if you are just waiting on life to teach you things, your rate of growth will be so slow. By the end of your life, you will not have come close to reaching your potential. I urge you to give this some thought. What is your growth plan? We are now wrapping up 2013.

Make a list for 2014 of how you want to develop yourself in the year ahead. I encourage you to consider what skills you want to learn, goals for your school or your community. However, what I am specifically talking about here are goals for yourself to become bigger, better, deeper. Goals to improve your spiritual life, your emotional life, and your relationships. Goals that will challenge you to learn new ways of thinking, to learn new perspectives and new paradigms. Thomas Edison once said, “There is always a way to do it better – find it.”

Finally, as my mother always taught me: “You have to be stronger than life.” Twitter_logo_blue

I hope that you face each day with courage, tenacity, and persistence—persistence to start daily leadership habits that will give you a step up in all that you dream to do with your life.

I believe in you!

Your friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

For Further Reading:

A Leadership Challenge to Married Men

4 Comments
  • Shelly Harrison
    Posted at 22:53h, 17 November Reply

    Dear Dr. Saade,

    Wow! These are all such wonderful challenges for young people! I, too, wish I had disciplined myself to do all of these things from an early age!

    I have been a follower of your blog for a while now, but subscribed to the email list only today. I was introduced to the website by my sweet sister-in-law, Stephanie, who is one of your recently hired employees. As I didn’t want to create any sort of conflict of interest while she was in the hiring and training process, I decided to wait until she had been employed for a while before I joined. She actually referred me to the website while she was considering the position, and I must say I have been incredibly impressed with the sincerity you possess, and the conviction with which you share that sincerity. The facilitation of healing is a high calling indeed, but it is quite evident to me that your purpose in this world is so much more than being a physician.

    As a high school teacher, I am in the “business” if you will, of helping to mold the next generation of leaders, and my experience has taught me this: Any ASPIRATION—be it leading, teaching, serving, —is fueled by INSPIRATION. One must have a deep, divinely inspired passion for the thing to which they aspire, and PASSION—which I personally define as an unexplained and relentlessly convicting predisposition —simply cannot be faked. I have heard it said that “Knowledge is power.” But I submit that knowledge absent of passion is static. The key ingredient of passion MUST be added for knowledge to become dynamic; for knowledge to effect change.

    For example, as a teacher—I LOVE what I do with all my heart and soul. I am not the best teacher—but I get better every day because of my PASSION. And although the teaching of academic curriculum is the primary focus of my job description, I believe my divinely inspired primary focus is the development of authentic mutually respectful relationships with my students. Because of that focus—I’m a much more effective teacher than my education would indicate. The cliché that “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is absolutely true. Because I care about my students as people, they trust me—and they buy into the academic subject that I am teaching!

    I say all that to encourage you that I have read enough of your blog to know that you are committed to loving people, and you are divinely inspired to teach the concept of servant leadership….that oh-so-elusive idea of seeking to serve FIRST…understanding that the “leadership piece” happens as the by-product rather than the goal. So thank you. And—Keep doing what you are doing! Your message is a timely and much needed one in our world.

    Very respectfully,

    Shelly Harrison

    • Wes Saade
      Posted at 23:00h, 18 November Reply

      Dear Shelly – wow! Thank you so very much for your generous comment. This should be a blog in itself. I love your passion and insightful thoughts on education. I especially love the thought of “relationships” in the classroom. I am sure you are a wonderful teacher and your students are blessed to be in your classroom. I look forward to your further comments and to learning from you about education and leadership. Wes

  • Nancy Shonamon
    Posted at 11:25h, 20 February Reply

    Dr. Saade,

    Procrastination…..what an animal!!! Sometimes it is due to items buried deeply in our email accounts. (like my response to this blog). 🙂 Sometimes it is a lack of discipline.

    In all cases, your truthful words ring with an impact that is astounding. I respect your role in our community. I appreciate your impact on my children and the students you reach.

    With your permission, I would like to share this with our student body.

    Blessings,
    Nancy Shonamon
    Nazarene Christian Academy

    • Wes Saade
      Posted at 15:52h, 20 February Reply

      Thank you Nancy. Of course, feel free to share anything I have on the blog. Thank you for leadership and contribution to our community and Nazarene Christian Academy! I appreciate the kind comment! Blessings.

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