s part of Generation Z, you are probably the kind of person who wants to live a life of purpose. Research tells us that your generation has some of the most global viewpoints and accepting attitudes of all generations past, meaning that you probably see yourself as someone who can truly make a difference in the world (which is true!).
Having purpose in your life probably means many things, one of which might be to lead positive social change. Recent racial injustices in America may have stoked a passion in your heart to ensure that people—particularly black people and others who have been marginalized—are treated fairly and that you are able to add your voice to the calls for action.
Gen Z is THE most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history, and many Gen Z’ers hold no barriers on race, gender, sex, or disability. This is part of the reason why you are a key player in creating change: You are part of the most open-minded generation ever!
Now, that’s not to say that creating change is easy. Many people have strong feelings about racial injustice or have had their own challenging personal experiences, which can make it difficult to think clearly because your emotions are running high. Channeling those emotions into positive action is instrumental in leadership ... for society, for you, and for people you know. This positive action also helps you become grittier and more resilient because you are standing up for what you believe.
So what actions CAN you take now, to actually lead and create social change? Here are some ideas to try:
- Educate yourself and know your facts Social media in particular is saturated with tons of information; some of it true and some of it not. Make a point to research reliable, unbiased sources. Listen to those who have been victims of racial inequality, or share your own story if you feel comfortable doing so. Ask questions, even when it’s uncomfortable.
- Connect to others in need Volunteer and serve others from your heart. One of the best things you can do is lead by example: Find a cause you are passionate about and volunteer your time to serve with an organization that exists to support that cause. Help them move their mission forward! Your actions speak louder than words, and volunteering is a bold, decisive action.
- Think in terms of “we” instead of “us” and “them” In conversation and in your behavior, try to practice a mentality of “we,” which implies solidarity and togetherness. As a people, we are trying to move forward to create awareness by working together and understanding each others’ experiences. Thinking with “we” in mind, you are doing your part to dissolve divisions of inequality.
- Seek to understand other perspectives It is not always easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but making an effort to do so is what allows you to be more understanding. Listening to someone’s journey and hearing about their trials gives you important insight that you can’t gain any other way. Sharing, too, allows you to open up your own experiences of injustice and explain your feelings about it.
- Lead with your values A core set of values is both your compass AND your anchor, especially in times of turmoil. Identify your values and lead authentically with them in mind. (Your values might include qualities like kindness, integrity, family, honesty, generosity, etc.) You will always find comfort in knowing you’ve taken a stand for what’s right and what speaks to your heart.
Leadership is always about continuing to grow and learn, including learning from those you lead. There is never an endpoint to leadership; you’re always striving to be the best version of yourself to ensure a positive influence on others, lift them up, and create a ripple effect out into the bigger world.
As a Gen Z leader, you have the ability to add value to others’ lives every day and to motivate your peers to enact positive social change. You are creating an example of what it’s like to establish a world where “we” is the default mindset; where, together, we can make a lasting impact. When you feel empowered to rise up and make a difference, you will empower others to do the same—and that’s exactly how the world becomes a better place.