By Safa Hajjaj, also for THE LEAD, Meridian International Center Blog.

WS1“Be confident about being a leader”. This is how Sunny, a Chinese high school student visiting the U.S. through a visitor program, described her biggest learning from the leadership training implemented by Meridian International Center in February 2015.


Such a comment tells me that this young woman is already a leader and I won’t be surprised to see her becoming a global leader in the next decade and a great pride for her country and parents. In fact, as facilitator of this training, Sunny, Harry and other students were a tremendous inspiration for me.


WS2Training high school students on topics such as developing leadership skills and problem solving through collaboration and innovation, is something that few years ago was not even thought about by educators or parents. In fact, only restraint elite of precursors in politics, business and management would tackle these topics and most of them will be already at a certain level of seniority or expertise. Leadership was probably considered as a component that only people aspired to take a high leadership position in government or businesses would have learnt in order to get ready for a higher position.


Today, we are more aware of the importance of preparing future leaders at an early age. Today, we better understand the importance of having leaders in all sectors and at all levels. Till very recently though, only private and nonprofit sectors implemented the leadership trainings and workshops and the educational system was left behind, taking a different to not say a slower pace than the post-school professional life.


WS3During the workshop with the Chinese high school students, not only the participants learnt something but also me. I learnt fun things like how to use chopsticks, I was very impressed to see a sophisticated way to build a high building with spaghetti sticks and marshmallows and enjoyed watching their fantastic problem solving potential during the group activities.


The first time I heard about leadership was in my first year of business school, during my English language class. The topic was “How to be a good manager?”, and I remember that the teacher pulled out the text from most probably an American book. Today this is accessible to students all over the world and everyone has a chance to learn about leadership at an earlier stage and maybe will see this practice more common in the future and have exchange visitor programs for even much younger students.



Entrepreneur, Atlas Corps Fellow from Morocco, Meridian International Center

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