Cite this article

NIDA. (2013, January 8). Great Leaders: Not Just Historical Figures. Retrieved from

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Ty Sells, Youth to Youth International
January 8 2013

“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders.”

I know, I know—you’ve heard that before. However, I’m here to tell you that this statement is not entirely true.

Today’s young people can be today’s leaders.

I have worked with Youth to Youth International for over 25 years, and I interact with some of the most intelligent, resourceful, and effective leaders of all time. All of them are youth.

Leadership isn’t reserved for any one group or age bracket. Leadership is available to anyone who believes they can make the world a better place.  

Martin Luther King, Jr. Was a Leader—And So Are You

I’ve asked young people all over the country to tell me who they think are the great leaders throughout time. Almost every time, they say: Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Abe Lincoln, and Mother Teresa—and almost always Martin Luther King, Jr. is the first. Now, these people were great leaders, but this does cause me some concern.

That is because these people are all famous historical figures. Teens never answer by saying their mothers, fathers, friends, or even themselves. Maybe teens have the idea that leadership is something that “others” do, not something in which they can participate. It also concerns me that the people they list made their contributions years and years ago. We all seem to be waiting for the next “great leader.”

I want teens to understand they have the qualities and skills to become leaders, and that effective leadership isn’t about who you are, but what you do. The fact remains—the most effective way to lead is to demonstrate the behavior you want to see.

Ty Sells is the Director of Training for Youth to Youth International. He has worked in the field of youth development for over 25 years and speaks at schools all over the United States. He has developed a variety of presentations, workshops, and trainings for youth and the adults that work with them.   

Youth to Youth is a community-based drug prevention and youth leadership program focusing primarily on middle and high school students. The goal of its many projects is to harness the powerful influence of peers, encouraging young people to live free of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.