The voice of a generation. Climate activist. Feminist icon. She’s everywhere, 16-yr-old Greta Thunberg.

Since her plight began the pint-sized eco-warrior has shown incredible traction for her cause, and many are saying she’s shown more leadership qualities than some of the most powerful figureheads we have ever seen.

But, while many are praising her efforts, there are almost equally as many, (unfortunately) scolding her. It’s undeniable though, young Greta Thunberg is holding some pretty awesome space in our global media and collective conscious. The same as any great leader would.

In the days/weeks since Thunberg’s remarkable speech addressing the UN in September, she’s had the whole world’s eyes on her. And of course, with any kind of mass attention comes mass criticism. Lovely Greta is not exempt from this, despite her age and lack of “active” political power, the keyboard warriors and talking heads are going nuts in their attempts to take her down. Personally, I’ve found the words of the accusers (most of them adult and privileged) disgusting. But that’s a whole other issue.

Greta Thunberg in front of the French Deputies on July 23, 2019, Reuters / Philippe Wojazer

Greta Thunberg in front of the French Deputies on July 23, 2019, Reuters / Philippe Wojazer

What really interests me about all this is how a 16-yr-old girl with no official title can have so much influence (good & bad) on our society.

What is it about Greta that has us all standing up and taking notice?

If a leader is getting it right, there is incredible power in effecting influence. So, what is it about young Greta that’s reflecting great leadership qualities?

1. She speaks from her heart.

When Greta speaks, people listen. I’m not sure if she writes her own speeches or if she has them written for her, but the point is, when she speaks it’s obvious that every skerrick of her being feels passionately about what she’s saying. When people are authentic and speak from the heart, whether you agree or not, it’s very difficult not to hang on every word. And in there is the power of influence.

2. She has one agenda.

I’m sure Greta, at sixteen years of age, is fond of many things. But we don’t hear any of that when she speaks about climate change. Of course, I know she is vegan and from doing a bit of research into her I also know she is very close to her family, but none of that matters. In fact, bringing it to the forefront might actually detract from her agenda. As soon as Greta starts leaking too much about her opinions and values on other matters, her Climate Change agenda is watered down. All that matters to Greta when she has the floor is climate change and getting our world leaders to take action. And boy, are we listening.

3. She is unforgiving in her narrative.

I have yet to hear Greta being sorry for her passion or her emotion. When she’s giving an address she’s telling it how she sees it––about the matter at hand. Beyond that, she doesn’t give away much at all. It’s a clever tack for a leader.

While it is good as a leader to show your vulnerable side occasionally, I think Greta already has a handicap in that area––in the simple fact that she is young––therefore she is not willing to give too much ‘vulnerable rope’ for fear of losing grip on her podium. And it’s a smart decision.

4. She’s not afraid of her adversaries.

When one of the most powerful world leaders gave Ms. Thunberg a public ribbing, instead of getting upset, or angry, or backing down, she fought back with (intelligent) playful mockery. Just a few hours after her addressing world leaders at the UN, United States President, Donald Trump posted a sarcastic statement on Twitter, mocking Thunberg. He said,

“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

In a subtle, but very clever retaliation, Greta updated her very public Twitter bio to read,

“A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”

A smart, effective, and classy retort. Further to that, she used social media again to address her haters. (The thousands of people using her looks or mental illness to attempt to take her down.) But instead of stooping to the aggressive tone of her trolls, mature-beyond-her-years, Greta simply stated her case, confidently and eloquently, posting the following statement on Instagram,

“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!
I have Asperger’s syndrome and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.

I’m not public about my diagnosis to “hide” behind it, but because I know many ignorant people still see it as an “illness”, or something negative. And believe me, my diagnosis has limited me before. Before I started school striking I had no energy, no friends and I didn’t speak to anyone. I just sat alone at home, with an eating disorder.
All of that is gone now, since I have found a meaning, in a world that sometimes seems meaningless to so many people.”

Spoken like a true leader.


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