The 2019 Virtual Alumni Conference for the Saudi Young Leaders Exchange Program (SYLEP) was a great success! The conference, which had been delayed for over two years due to Covid, took place on March 14, 2022 and focused on global leadership for the future. The keynote speech for the conference was delivered by Jason Scott, who has designed and implemented leadership development programs for the past 20 years, including many programs at Legacy International in the past. His experience has taught him that the fundamentals of leadership, the skills that make a strong leader, need to be reinforced, practiced, and reflected upon throughout your career. Here are the top 10 leadership attributes that Jason says are necessary for global leadership in the future: 

  1. Have a Global Perspective: What is the bigger picture? There was a bumper sticker people used to put on the back of their cars that was popular in the U.S. that said Think Globally. Act Locally. “Think globally, act locally urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and take action in their own communities and cities.” This environmental slogan has been attributed to a Scottish town planner named Patrick Geddes in the early 20th century. We know now more than ever what we do has a greater impact beyond our own borders and confines. 
  2. You are not Alone: You don’t have to do it alone. You can’t do it alone! You have each other! You have people in your community and in your field that also have the same goals as you. Build your alliances and partnerships and work together to achieve the same goals. You are now a part of hundreds of SYLEP alumni in Saudi Arabia and around the world. Make sure you take advantage of the alumni network and your colleagues here. 
  3. Admit your Mistakes: Admitting your mistakes is the fastest path to moving past them. You won’t lose respect, you’ll gain it. Learning from mistakes is how you grow as a leader. Teaching others based on your mistakes makes you a Thought Leader.
  4. Actively Engage in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: To be a global leader with a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion means having an open-mind, having a respectful curiosity about others is crucial. You must enjoy learning from the perspectives and experiences of people whose lives may be very different from your own. You need to understand other people’s points of view and to empathize with them, and imagine the world from these other perspectives. This is a proactive quality of leadership and not a passive one. 
  5. Practice Effective Communication Skills: The SYLEP participants spent a weekend at Sweet Briar College and learned about communication skills –  Active Listening, how we hear and receive the communication, how we respond. These are all things we need to continue to practice and I continue to practice every day in various situations. When you add cultural differences on top of it all – it’s doubly important for global leaders. 
  6. Coach and Mentor Others: Leadership mentoring isn’t just for the benefit of those you are coaching – it benefits you as a leader as well. Mentoring can create continuous learning opportunities that go both ways. Mentees are constantly learning new knowledge, skills, and ways of thinking from their mentor. Mentors can also gain valuable insights from their mentees that help them in their day-to-day interactions, decision-making, and responsibilities as a team leader. This type of relationship is mutually beneficial and ensures that you continue to innovate and grow.
  7. Practice Self-Care: One of the qualities of leadership we often hear about is drive, or those that work all the time. You often hear profiles of leaders that work 20 hours a day or days and days on end without a break until their dreams are achieved. What we don’t hear about are all of those that burned out and failed because of the stress. You MUST take time to care for yourself – in whatever way that looks like for you. Take care of your health, get enough sleep, eat right, take care of your inner / reflective needs. You will only be at your best when you feel at your best. 
  8. Approach others with Compassion and Empathy: Trust that people are showing up at their best, with what they have to offer that day. You don’t know what they have faced in their lives or that day. Did they fail an exam? Did they have a fight with their spouse? Are they just having a bad day? If you approach everyone with compassion and empathy – and assume the best you will better serve yourself and your community.
  9. Find Comfort with the Uncomfortable: By staying in your comfort zone, you’re intentionally closing yourself off from learning opportunities that can help further your goals. Pick up lessons from coworkers, friends, coaches or family. Every new teaching moment is uncomfortable at first, but the value of having learned it is immeasurable. For leaders, there’s a difference between a relaxed or easy-going personality and excess comfortableness. Simply do a self-check every now and then, and make sure that you’re developing and expanding your horizons. Who knows? You may just get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  10. Live Your Values: This should be no surprise to you all. We talked a lot about values-based leadership during your time with SYLEP. I understand this aspect more and more – now that I’m no longer working with Legacy International full time – it’s something I find myself reflecting upon in the workplace. What are my core values, what do I stand for, and how do I reflect those to others? 

SYLEP is a three-week multi-phased leadership experience in the U.S. for Saudi current or recently graduated university students. As the flagship Saudi youth development program of the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, SYLEP supports participants in building leadership, entrepreneurship, professional skills, civic responsibility, appreciation for cultural diversity, and community engagement through exploration of themes such as entrepreneurship, innovation, science and technology, community health, job readiness, youth engagement, and other issue areas. The goals of the program are to promote mutual understanding between the people of the U.S and Saudi Arabia, prepare young leaders to become responsible citizens and contributing members of their communities, and develop leadership skills among Saudi and U.S. youth.