Stefun Darts is probably not on your kid's list of idols alongside Justin Bieber or Kylie Jenner, but he should be. 24-year old Darts, who is a college student and Founder of the non-profit Caring Heart Youth, recently presented his grandparents with a check for $15,000 to pay off their mortgage and fund a Bahamas vacation. He wanted to repay them for the sacrifices they made to raise him.
For the last 6 years, instead of hanging out with friends, Darts worked multiple jobs and saved every penny to fulfil a promise he made to himself in second grade to take care of his grandparents when he became an adult.
What inspires a young adult to forsake the fun of adolescence in exchange for the opportunity to express gratitude? Where does someone like Stefun find the motivation, discipline, compassion, and drive to set and carry out this goal?
While Stefun's devotion and generosity is profoundly moving, my research has taught me that the underlying traits he exhibits are not unique. On the contrary, the emerging generations of leaders possess specific traits that will equip them well in the 21st century, and provide great promise for us all.
If you are wondering if your child has what it takes to embark on a path of exemplary leadership, here are some clues to help you.
1: They are Socially Conscious/Committed to a Cause.
Socially conscious leadership is essential in the 21st century. As socialism and capitalism continue to blend into a business model that encourages companies to "do good while doing well," our business leaders will be expected to catalyze social justice. Today's world requires heart-centered leadership that is motivated by results beyond profitability.
Most recently, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman canceled plans to open a $3.6 million facility in North Carolina that would have employed 400 people, specifically because of its recent law that bars local governments from extending civil rights protections to gay and transgender people.
Who to watch: 18-year old Asya Gonzalez, Founder and CEO of accessories company Stinky Feet Gurlz, Founder and CEO of She is Worth It, a global nonprofit committed to raising awareness about Child Sex Trafficking.
2: They Take Risks.
21st century leaders must embrace risk and be comfortable with uncertainty. Entrepreneurship is once again at an all-time high, and teen entrepreneurship is skyrocketing. The next generations of leaders understand that they must create their own opportunities.
Who to watch: 17-year old Jaylen Bledsoe, Founder & CEO of the $3.5 million Jaylen Bledsoe Group, and Founder of The Young Entrepreneur University. "Take risks; there's nothing that you can do as a minor that will shoot you down for too long. Because you are young, you can come back up and keep going."
3. They Follow Their Passion.
Today's kids seize opportunities to follow their passions now, rather than waiting for adulthood. Shows like Shark Tank often feature young entrepreneurs, such as Mikaila Ulmer who received a $60,000 investment from Daymond John for her Sweet Bee Lemonade, and most recently a contract from Whole Foods.
Who to watch: 16-year old Flynn McGarry, a top New York chef who started a pop-up dinner series which runs $160 per person, plus an extra $80 for wine pairings. He's just getting started. "Long term, I want a restaurant that has a staff and more than 12 seats. I set unrealistic goals because it keeps me constantly wanting more."
4: They Develop Creative Solutions to Universal Problems.
Vision has always been a hallmark trait of a good leader, and the emerging generation is no exception. They look at the challenges that have impacted their lives, and they want to make a difference. They know how to leverage technology to promote their ideas, connect with customers, and even crowd-fund This generation is incredibly optimistic about their ability to make the world a better place.
Who to watch: 15-year old Rachel Zietz, founder of the million-dollar lacrosse equipment company, Gladiator Lacrosse. Rachel didn't like the quality, cost, or selection of lacrosse equipment so she started her own company to make better equipment.
These are just a few young adults setting the world on fire.
Think your kid has what it takes to make millions and move mountains? Check out these additional young leaders for more inspiration!