Citizen Leadership is:
Character and courage: Men, women, young adults and teens getting clear on who they are and how they want to be in the world, so they act and speak with authenticity and with the courage of their convictions day in and day out, in private and public – at home, in school, at work, in their club, in church and temple, on a team, in a troop, in the support group, in the neighborhood.
Contribution to the community: Men, women, young adults and teenagers applying the qualities of their character as they participate in or champion efforts to better their world and create great places for us all to live, work and play.
We live among circumstances that test our character every day. We live in an era during that barrages from all sides and online by forces — whether psychological, physical, spiritual or other — that can leave us struggling to know: What is the right thing to do? How is the right way to be? To act? What is the right thing to say? Pressure from peers, parents, partners, teachers, bosses; professional pressure, social pressure, popular culture, and social media; prospects for personal gain, power, profit, prestige and position; noxious preachers and pundits, prejudice and fear mongering — they fog up our minds, and sicken our hearts.
I believe these forces are particularly treacherous for those who have not yet developed a personally meaningful set of guiding principles and who are struggling to hang on to a clear, steady sense of who they are in the face of a daily assault by these forces. I think, in particular, of younger people, just starting out, just trying to find their way and figure out the rules of engagement in our culture, in their world.
They, and we, all risk falling prey to the influence of those who would manipulate us for self-serving purposes. This is especially true in our culture in which the dominant forces – at least the very public dominant forces – seem to be profit/wealth, power, prestige and personal gain. These are amoral forces. They are not necessarily bad or good.
What is good is when the men, women and young adults who find themselves in the throws of these forces hold constant to their personal principles and act in ways that reflect those principles. That is the foundation of citizen leadership.