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Learnings for YAO from the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit

By Sonya Perez-Lauterbach

Being an effective leader can be a challenge. So as the manager of Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO), I’m always eager to learn from effective, experienced leaders from a variety of fields.

That’s why I was so pleased when, last Friday, I got the chance to join thousands of people around the world who were listening in and learning from a diverse lineup of Christian and business leaders at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, a conference broadcast via satellite from the Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. It was an opportunity for the leaders to share invaluable expertise and wisdom, and each of the six speakers that I heard that day were challenging, relevant and left me feeling inspired. However, there were two speakers in particular that motivated and inspired me in my work withhttp://www.opportunity.org/young-ambassadors-for-opportunity/Young Ambassadors for Opportunity (YAO)[/intlink].

Daniel H. Pink–business thinker, former White House speechwriter, and best-selling author ofA Whole New Mind–made a presentation that I found particularly relevant to YAO, especially when he concluded: “Our [human] nature is active and engaged. It is our default programming.” The stated mission of YAO is to inspire, educate, and involve younger generations in transforming the lives of people living in poverty. The compassion and engagement that I see in the young professionals I work with reinforces Pink’s assertions that it is natural and enlivening for us to be active and engaged.

Business leader Blake Mycoskie also made comments that motivated my work with YAO. Mycoskie, the founder and “Chief Shoe Giver” at TOMS Shoes, Inc., asserted: “It’s never too early to start giving… If I had waited until I retired to start giving I would have missed all the blessings and joy I am receiving now.” Blake shared that, initially, he’d assumed he would use his entrepreneurial gifts and leadership talents to build many companies, accumulate wealth, and then give philanthropically after he’d retired in his 60′s. Instead, he founded TOMS Shoeson the premise that for every pair of shoes purchased, a pair is given to a child in need–so Mycoskie hasn’t had to wait to experience the joy of giving. The engaged young professionals who http://www.opportunity.org/young-ambassadors-for-opportunity/sign-up/join YAO[/intlink] clearly seem to agree with his philosophy. They’re making an impact right now by supporting Opportunity’s microfinance initiatives and bank-building in http://www.opportunity.org/young-ambassadors-for-opportunity/tanzania/Tanzania[/intlink]. Their ongoing support and involvement provides entrepreneurs living in poverty with the chance to change their lives today.

My work with YAO inspires and motivates me every day. Attending conferences like Willow Creek just reinforces what I already know: that everyone, no matter their age, profession or stage of life, can be an effective leader, encouraging others to get involved and make a difference in the world.

I encourage you to visit the Willow Creek Summit website and watch more of the highlight videos to be inspired by the work of these accomplished leaders.

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