What You Do Matters

Posted on: June 16th, 2017 by Ruth-Ann Shantz

Can you name a few people whose leadership inspires and empowers you? Would your list of people include world leaders, activists, family members or friends? What words might you use to describe those role models?

This spring I had the opportunity to be a preliminary round judge at the Take the Lead public speaking contest at Brescia University. High school women from across Ontario gathered at the university to compete for a one-year full academic scholarship. They were asked to speak about someone whose leadership inspires and empowers them.

There was acknowledgement from all the speakers that people who inspire 1255191_4214347293796_802336227_n[1]and empower come in all forms. They can risk their life because of what they believe in, they are advocates for others, they have influence, strength and determination. They have an “I can do anything” kind of attitude, they are change makers and a source of inspiration with a commitment to their community.

Prior to judging I reflected on a few of the people who continue to inspire and empower me. I first met Dr. Susan Schultz Huxman when she became President at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo and she quickly became one of the people who inspired me with her educational leadership. As a communications specialist, she is authentic and well-spoken and I have enjoyed every opportunity I have had to hear her speak. When I heard that she would be the 2017 commencement speaker at my alma mater I made a point of listening to her address. In her speech, she highlighted Dov Seidman’s new book, Why How We do Anything means Everything”.   In the book, Seidman asks the significant question, “What does it mean to be human in the age of intelligent machines?” or more simply put – what makes us humans unique if machines can compete with people? His straight forward answer – “humans have heart”.  Seidman further suggested, “…that heart includes the traits that can’t be programmed into software such as passion, character and collaborative spirit”. It seems to me that these might just be the traits that would continue to differentiate these graduates.

The young women who advanced to the final round in the Take the Lead contest talked about a variety of people; a political leader, a mother, a friend and an honorary Canadian citizen. The winner…was the young woman who delivered a speech about her best friend.  I believe  her success stemmed from her heart felt delivery and absolute respect for her best friend.  In her allotted 5 minutes, she told stories of the numerous ways her friend inspired her, how she created change on the school yard when she was very young and her significant qualities of leadership. In the end, she acknowledged that “the future of humanity is filled with hope” because she sees it in her friend every day.

Here is the question that I keep asking myself…Did the best friend ever know how much she was inspiring her friend? Enough to know that she would go on to write a speech about her? In the same way, I wonder if Susan would be surprised to know the profound effect she has had on me? The point being, inspiration can come from anyone, at any time and in various forms but the common thread with this kind of impact is always heart because there is no way anyone who has been inspired by anybody hasn’t felt it in their heart!

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