Dear Branksome Hall Asia Community,
Below is a transcript of the speech I gave to our student leaders during the Installation Ceremony this year.
It is our mission to empower young women to be the leaders of tomorrow. Our goal, however, is not just to inspire but to teach our girls how to lead with compassion and empathy and to focus their energies on shaping a better world - in essence, at Branksome, we encourage our young women to lead with their hearts.
In addition to having a mission related to women’s empowerment, we also possess the most extensive student leadership model that I have ever witnessed in a school. With 14 councils, 8 clans and formally-elected positions for students across all grades in the middle and senior schools, opportunities abound. Even outside of this structure, students are encouraged to lead and express their voice to effect change. Indeed, many of our students lead CASE activities that examine issues of global importance and provide examples of actions related to needed change. And, in today’s world, leadership is all about change.
You might have heard of Dr. Mohammad Yunus. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his creation of a new banking system that provides micro-loans to women. These are small loans, often between 20,000 and 500,000 Korean Won (between $20 and $500 US), offered almost exclusively to women to help them start a small business and to provide them with an opportunity to dig themselves out of extreme poverty. Some women might use the money to buy a cow and sell its milk. Others might buy a sewing machine to make clothing. These are the kinds of activities that these micro-loans assist. The micro-loan idea and the banking structure that support it have proven to be phenomenal successes - starting first in Bangladesh and then spreading around the world. They have now given loans to over 8 million borrowers, 97% of them women.
What caught my interest is the fact that this was the first time ever for a Nobel Peace Prize to be given to someone for a profit-making business. As a follow up to winning this prize, Dr. Yunus wrote a book called, “A World of Three Zeros: The new economics of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero net carbon emissions.” And it is this book that reminded me about the power of leadership.
Dr. Yunus talks about the banking system in his book and he lists endless examples of success stories related to this micro-credit scheme. However, what he does in this audacious and daring book is to outline a completely new economic structure for the world. He argues that the capitalist worldview must change and he provides an entirely novel model for consideration. And this is why I say he is audacious - he isn’t afraid to pursue change.
I don’t know if his ideas will flourish or if they are even sound. What I do know is that he studied a problem in the world, brainstormed possible solutions, imagined an ideal future that would benefit others, and then walked toward it, sharing his ideas and insights along the way. This to me is what change leadership is all about. It is about bravely moving forward with a process that is directed toward a clear and globally focused outcome. This type of leadership is, by definition, all about leading with your heart.
I challenge our newly installed young leaders to think of problems that they wish to address, imagine an ideal future that will help make the world a better place, and then walk toward this ideal. And in this way, I challenge both our new prefects and the members of our parent and greater community who support them to lead with their heart.
See you at school,