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07 December 2023

Youngsters act as change leaders

By Rami F Majzoub

Although going through an economic downturn is painful, the mere existence of such crises and their cyclical appearance has long been predicted and analysed. What is important is to use the lessons learnt from the past and implement them efficiently during this period that is about to bring dramatic changes at local and international level.

The role of young people had always been decisive in challenging eras, based on their creativity, revolutionary mind-set and determination to test new approaches. Based on this concept, the UAE faces a tremendous opportunity as the vast majority of its population is young – especially as compared to the western economies – highly educated and with adequate moral and financial support from the authorities. The young people of the UAE can really play a key role at international level, acting as the ambassadors of change that will lead to a new era.


Going a bit back in order to explore the regularity of the economic cycles, Kondratieff was among the first to introduce the idea of a worldwide fluctuating economy that would move into cyclical waves, each lasting about 50-55 years. According to another scholar, Schumpeter, the basic technological innovations – those revolutionary innovations with strong spillover potential that generate new industrial, entrepreneurial and professional activities – are the ones that completely transform the global socio-economic status quo and signify the beginning of each new era – or, each new cycle.

Radical market innovations introduced and led by entrepreneurs, in their majority young, are rapidly diffused into society, generating an intense period of economic growth which, after a couple of decades deteriorates, leading finally to a new economic crisis. So, the relation of causality could be expresses as:

Economic crisis = Basic Innovations = economic expansion.


There have been calculated four Kondratieff Waves after the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Based on these calculations, the economic crisis that we are currently facing is the clear indication of the end of the fourth wave, and some very deep and radical innovations are quickly expected to take place, leading the world economy into a new era of growth and expansion.

Where do young people stand within this turbulence? How does their role change? How do they react?

By definition, young people do not react. They are the ones leading the changes. What is more, in our current society, their education and socio-economic international background – highly enhanced through the intense use of technology that allows intercultural communication and understanding even without travelling – has infused into them the spirit of the innovative entrepreneur and the active citizen. Combining vision, creativity and innovation, they take the role of the "change leader."


Young people develop what Peter Senge defines as the two vital systems-thinking skills: "seeing patterns of interdependency" and "seeing into the future". This Systems Intelligence comes to supplement the leadership characteristics already developed in the past, as the key factor for future success. Already, major top executives like Ford's CIO, Marv Adams and Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott have identified the gap, however individual changes – even if coming from big corporations – cannot make a difference in an interdependent systemic world. By definition, it is the role of the young generation to fully integrate these needs and skills into its learning process, in order to achieve the radical changes required for the new step ahead.

As individuals and organisations, we have never had to be concerned about how our day-to day decisions, like the products we buy and the energy we use, affect people and larger living systems who live thousands of miles away. This challenge to evolve does not apply only to individuals, but also to larger supply networks, entire industries and whole societies. This is the real message of "globalisation".

Additionally, young change leaders are committed to taking personal initiative and going beyond the defined boundaries. They consistently take the initiative to work with others to solve unexpected problems, break bottlenecks, challenge the status quo, and think outside the box. Setbacks do not discourage them from trying again - and again. Certainly they are responsive to top leadership's inspiration, but they do not wait around for it to move them to action.

Based on the well-known decrease of birth-rate in the Western economies and the war for talent that has consequently evolved, young people are entering the field soon and in demanding positions. They develop hard and soft skills, while having the courage to constantly question the existing methods and norms.

Most important of all, though, young change leaders abide with what A Einstein summarised in the phrase: "try not to be a success, try to be of value". They keep a modest profile, focusing on developing the innovative solutions that will bring the required change in the current socio-economic system. These young leaders may not have a well-known name, or a top level position that gives them access to a world-wide acknowledgement of their work. However, we are entirely dependent on them, on their motivation and their creativity, in order to break the boundaries laid down by a mind-set that fulfilled its lifecycle and needs to be renovated taking into consideration the faults of the past and the requests of the future.

- The writer is Chairman of the Africa & Middle East Development Council of Junior Chamber International (JCI)