What is a leader? While this is an extremely complex question, I believe it can be narrowed down to two distinct attributes: motivation and empathy. A leader must be motivated because their energy is what inspires those who follow them. If the leader’s morale is low, the entire team following them risks collapse. A leader must also exhibit empathy. They must have a deep understanding of each person who they lead in order to be an effective leader. A leader should have a keen ability to read a room; they must know when something is wrong and how they should go about fixing that problem. Leaders must be good listeners and have the capacity to consider the ideas of every person in the group.
A large portion of Sweet Readers’ success is attributed to its empowerment of youth. By giving young adults responsibility and respect, they put a huge amount of effort into everything they do. Giving teens autonomy with structure allows them to acknowledge what they can and can’t accomplish. When teens feel empowered, they take ownership of their success. This is what Sweet Readers aims to achieve through our programs and also through the Leadership Council.
The Sweet Readers Leadership council is a group of high schoolers who excelled in the Sweet Readers programs as middle schoolers. The Council’s mission is to “build Sweet Readers communities and to educate the public about Alzheimer’s, isolation and brain health.” The Council is a gratifying experience for Sweet Readers alumni because they get the chance to take part in what actually makes Sweet Readers Programs happen. Even more important, the Leadership Council fosters an environment in which high schoolers are given opportunities to grow as good citizens. In working with the Council, teens learn irreplaceable life skills that they will carry with them through college and beyond.