Ambassadors for Change: Humanizing the Leadership Experience
Written by Brianna Canty
Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin, the authors of Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude, state: “A leader needs to have presence, to show up to the moment grounded in one’s self, as centered as one can be, ready to hear, to listen, to discern.” They highlight solitude, reflection, and self-awareness as keys for inspirational and transformational leadership.
To become a leader, an impactful and motivational leader, you first need to lead yourself.
For nine Sunday evenings over ten months, the Ambassadors in the Ambassador for Change Leadership Program come together to answer that very call. It is a dedicated head and heart space where these girls learn about confidence, courage, character, and compassion, as well as the value of their own voices. They learn about themselves through reflection, through team-building exercises, through collaboration and conversation. By starting with introspection and self-discovery, Girls Soccer Worldwide is developing the person first.
They first must lead themselves before they can lead others.
Focusing our efforts on the Ambassador, meeting her where she is at and raising her up, is us humanizing the leadership experience. This means, “we are taking [leadership] out of the classroom, taking it out of the books, taking it out of this analytical way of thinking…and we’re bringing it to conversations that matter.”
The development we are looking for in these girls won’t be found in textbooks or definitions. Leadership is not simply a capacity that exists, a set of behaviors to study, an action to complete.
Our Ambassador for Change Leadership Program is an experience built around the “Art of Self-Leadership.” This is where every Ambassador starts her journey because the key to becoming an effective and efficient leader starts within. Why? We believe, we know, “that it is the person IN leadership that ultimately affects change.”
What makes GSWW unique is the importance we place on developing the person first. We want our Ambassadors to know themselves, to lead with their heart, to be brave and compassionate.
Leadership, for us, is about love.
We are humanizing the leadership experience by starting with love.
About the Program
Our mission for the leadership program is to create opportunities for High School Female Athletes to work together as a team and become the bridge between communities. Our Ambassadors not only focus on their own development as leaders in our monthly workshops, but they also work together by co-developing and co-facilitating Grassroots Workshops for girls, ages 6-13, living in underserved areas of our community.
These workshops develop the Ambassador and the young girl. They allow both to gain the life skills needed to believe in their self-worth and value, to find their voice, and to lead.
It is all about girls empowering girls, on and off the field.
From self-awareness, self-discipline, and self-discovery, to public speaking experiences and out of the box conversations, our developmental program is centered around the leader within. We have built a space for introspection and reflection, creating room for our Ambassadors to learn about themselves and learn about the kind of leader they want to be first.
Our leadership program is a multi-year program designed to build on itself because we know that change takes time. In Year 1, we focus solely on discovering your voice and the art of self-leadership. This establishes the foundation for Year 2, which centers around collaborative leadership and professional development. Finally, Year 3 and beyond is about mentorship and advising. Our Year 3 Ambassadors have the opportunity to apply and be selected to serve on the Junior Advisory Team, where they can have input on the future of the Ambassador Program. They also work on an independent passion project, opening the door for possible 1-on-1 mentorship opportunities in our local community.
We are confident in the progress we’ve made surrounding this program over the last three years. We have a grounded, clear plan for Year 1, a revised curricula for Year 2, and we are currently exploring the potential of Year 3 and beyond. Perfection is not our goal. We want this program to grow and develop with the girls, meeting not just their needs and their aspirations, but also meeting them where they are at.
Program Goals and Guiding Principles
The Ambassador Programs in both the Bay Area and in Paraguay were created to empower girls to rise up, make a difference, and become strong leaders that inspire their own communities to change from within.
Initially, our program focused solely on creating an opportunity for leadership. “It really was about building that resume, creating a space for girls to use their voice in their community, and providing access to community service,” Pamela explained. But in digging deeper, in discovering the true core of why GSWW shows up in these spaces, it all comes down to one word: love. It is “the essence of who we are” and “what every girl needs.”
Humanizing the leadership experience, at the end of the day, means love. Starting with love, showing up in love, leading with love. That has become one of our core values at GSWW and a guiding principle for our Ambassadors. Why we show up in the first place, for our Ambassadors and for the girls at Grassroots, is because every girl deserves love.
Every girl deserves to be seen and heard, to believe in their self-worth and value, and to be given access to opportunities.
Regardless of where she is, who she is, and what she does, every girl matters.
“We desperately need more leaders who are committed to courageous, wholehearted leadership and who are self-aware enough to lead from their hearts, rather than unevolved leaders who lead from hurt and fear.”
Last week, we published a blog about our amazing Bay Area Grassroots Program. It is a weekly event for girls ages 6-13 from underserved communities to show up in a safe space, connect with our Ambassadors, and learn about leadership.
This program began when our leadership program did and the two have been developing side by side for the last three years. There is no Grassroots without the Ambassador for Change Program, and vice versa. But, today, we are finally at a point where we are actualizing one of our long-term goals.
“Our goal has always been to create a pathway for the girls who participate in Grassroots to apply and interview to become an Ambassador. We want to keep the conversation going,” Pamela explained. “We want to be that pathway of leadership for them to continue to learn more about themselves and gain the skills that they need. For the first time, we have girls in our Grassroots Program applying to become Ambassadors this year. It’s what we’ve been waiting for.”
The final part of our mission statement is coming to fruition. These girls, who started in our Grassroots Program, now can rise up and inspire change within their own communities.
“You can show up in a community and do what you think is right, but until you put the voices of those you are helping in the work, you’re always going to be off target.”
Who vs. What
“It really is who they are first,” Pamela said. “Finding identity in who you are over the what…that is us humanizing the leadership experience. If you peel back the layers and you get inside the conversations that we’re having, we’re really talking about who they are.”
By centering the conversations around confidence, courage, character, and compassion, we are asking our Ambassadors to rise up and become authentic, transformational leaders. Leaders who listen to their hearts as well as their minds, who are guided by inner principles, who inspire those around them.
A leader who is grounded in her values, who truly knows herself, is a leader who will not crumble in the face of adversity.
Refocusing on the “who” of the leader, teaching these young women how to lead themselves first, is what this program is all about. We want this program to show them that they can be great leaders without sacrificing their hearts or their humanity. We want to put people, put the girls, first. Because leadership is really all about people.
To know yourself is to know they type of leader you are, the type of leader you’d like to become.
And with curiosity and courage, you just might discover the leader you were meant to be.
Girls Soccer Worldwide!
Previous Blog: “Grassroots: Gratitude and Growth”
Want to apply to become an Ambassador for our 2023-2024 Program? Click here!
For more information on our Grassroots Programs: Bay Area/Livermore Website, International Website
To learn more about Girls Soccer Worldwide and what we do, click here.