RJ and I talk about the early success of LEAD Palestine, the organization he began to teach leadership to youths that most of the world abandoned in Palestine.
Where their environment made it natural to respond with hopelessness and what comes from it—desperation to the point of aspiring to blow oneself up—RJ is bringing social and emotional development to create hope themselves.
They happen to have been born into a world where leadership meant in politics authoritarianism and militarism, which bled into personal relationships. Nobody taught alternatives and those who acted on those models succeeded, however much at others’ costs.
RJ is teaching an effective style of leadership built on personal skill. I can’t help but imagine a lot of it came from my class, though, obviously he deserves the overwhelming credit for implementing it. Though the class he took with me was social entrepreneurship, that semester, several students showed great interest and initiative and I’d stay after class to teach and coach leadership exercises, sometimes for hours. Among those students, RJ stood out.
I also ask him about his personal role as a student barely older than the people he’s helping, as well as his personal challenge of avoiding plastic bottles.
For a self-aware, thoughtful, active leader, the modest personal challenge increased his mindfulness, activity, awareness at no cost in time, money, or other resource.