By Wendy Royston
The assumption that 20- and 30-somethings are not interested in leadership
doesn’t hold true for everyone.
“If someone were to say they needed me to step up … I’d be the first person to say, ‘Yes; that’s my duty as a young person … and that’s my duty as a member of my community,” said Heidi Appel, economic manager of the Aberdeen (S.D.) Downtown Association. “At some point, the reins have to be taken over by new people, so I would be more than willing to do so.”he assumption that 20- and 30-somethings are not interested in leadership doesn’t hold true for everyone.
But Appel, 35, said she has not been made aware of a need for her leadership skills in her hometown of Redfield. She is, however, very active in the Aberdeen business community, serving on the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce and Aberdeen Development Corp., as well as being involved in the Big Idea Competition, Sertoma Club and Junior Achievement. At least to some degree, Appel said, officials in Redfield may not have approached her because people in that community may not be aware of the professional abilities she uses in the Hub City, which is roughly 45 miles north of their town, but she and other younger adults would serve in leadership positions if they were aware that they are needed.
Appel thinks her experience could hold true for many other young professionals.
“Young people often aren’t tapped by the elders of a community who have held leadership positions, so they are probably just unaware that they are needed, or unaware that the current leadership is ready to check out,” she said.
Appel said she realizes she and others could do more to actively pursue leadership positions, but several other obligations vie for their time.
“As a parent of four … taking a position that meets every week and makes my phone ring off the hook is just daunting,” she said. “If the people who are in (leadership) positions right now are comfortable in continuing them or are not interested in seeking someone to replace them, I am not interested in giving myself additional duties outside of my work and my family.”
Those who do step forward to leadership roles without prompting, she said, often are rebelling against the standing leadership.
“They (maybe) have been displeased with what someone in those leadership positions is doing or not doing,” she said.
And at times, Appel said, it seems that the older members of a community really do not want the help of the younger generation.
“They’re very tied to their roles, so if someone chooses to run against them for city council, they’re going to run, too. They want that position, and they will go door to door to keep it,” she said.
Appel also noted that the majority of voters in elections tend to be older, and tend to support their peers rather than younger contenders, meaning younger people who do run often lose their races. She speculated that that knowledge may deter other young candidates from running. She said she fears that candidates who run unsuccessfully will lose momentum and the desire for public service.
“I’d like to see communities embrace people who have shown interest in leadership and go door to door with them and get the elders to understand and respect where they’re coming from,” she said. “If the community could embrace the young person and stand behind them, that would be refreshing.”
She suggested potential leaders be invited to participate on a small scale first, to both get a feel for leadership roles and to prove their abilities to the community.