Shifting Leadership Impact: An Interview with VALT Facilitator, Abdul Samad Khan

Edited Again

In April 2020, iEARN-USA, which is one of the YES program recruitment organizations, implemented its second online leadership and professional development workshop, called Virtual Alumni Leaders Training (VALT) 2020.  VALT, a series of online trainings that spanned a two-week period, offered sessions designed to enhance and develop participants’ skills and knowledge in leadership and project management.  Sixty YES alumni from over 30 countries attended sessions on topics such as developing strong partnerships, monitoring and evaluation, writing grant proposals, leveraging social media for community impact, brainstorming innovative programs, and communicating effectively.  Each session was facilitated by an expert guest speaker, granting YES alumni access to a diverse range of knowledge and skill sets.  

Abdul Samad Khan, who is based in Islamabad, Pakistan and is the co-founder of Youth Impact, led an engaging session on “Shifting Leadership Impact” during VALT 2020. His session focused on reimagining leadership as a mindset and living life with a sense of responsibility towards one’s local and global community. To learn more about Samad’s passion for leadership, we reached out to him with some questions and below is our interview with him about his inspiring work:

1. What is your background and how/why did you decide to create Youth Impact?

Professionally, I am a leadership trainer and started my career with corporate clients in 2001. I am the pioneering member of the team that introduced wilderness based corporate leadership trainings in Pakistan. In 2006, I went through a phase of life where I was diagnosed with cancer which led me to chemotherapy. I went through some of the lowest moments of my life during this period and I was struggling to find a greater reason to keep living. My answer was revealed when after recovering from cancer, I traveled to the U.S. to attend the National Outdoor Leadership School program in the Rocky Mountains. I got to observe that NOLS works with young people around the globe and transforms their lives through challenging outdoor expeditions. Since I was already doing the same work with a focus on corporate clients, the idea of empowering youth in developing countries through outdoor experiential programs became my aspiration. With my decade long experience in corporate leadership development, I looked around for opportunities through which I could learn more about youth development. There, I got a scholarship from Australian government, which enabled me to work with 20 different youth organizations across Australia. This served as my professional foundation for shifting my career from corporate towards youth development. Later, I got various other scholarships including the IVLP scholarship by the U.S. State Department that enabled me to work with youth leaders across five continents. Youth Impact was founded in 2013, as an outcome of my realization to live my second life for the development of youth leaders.


2. Can you briefly describe the mission and vision of Youth Impact?

Youth Impact started its formal journey in 2013 as a not for profit with a mission to develop purposeful, character based young social leaders. At Youth Impact, we have envisioned a world with empowered and engaged young social leaders. In the pursuit of this vision, we have trained more than 25,000 youth in the last seven years.

First Ever Batch To Graduate From Youth Impact In 2013

First Ever Batch To Graduate From Youth Impact In 2013.

3. What inspires you to work with young people? 

In comparison with corporate executives, the youth are more engaging and perhaps the most intriguing audiences you can work with. They are optimistic, bring in energy, radiate the same, and believe in the power of dreams. At the same time, they bring in the honest desire and eagerness to learn and explore which enables us to create more exciting opportunities, programs, and platforms for young people. Working with youth and seeing the brightness in their eyes, makes me love my work. I believe nothing is more satisfactory than when your passion, profession, and mission are all combined.


4. Why is it important to think of leadership as a mindset? 

We as humans, are gifted with the divine responsibility to make this world a better place.  Living one’s life with this sense of responsibility makes one a leader. To embody leadership, we are not limited to our positions and titles. Rather, it is a voluntary act of living every moment of life with consciousness and sense of accountability no matter what role of life we are in. The moment we start living with this mindset, our existence as humans acquires a greater meaning and purpose.


5. What were some of the key takeaways you shared at the Shifting Leadership Impact session?

I shared my core belief about leadership with the participants that no matter what role we are in the society, we are obligated with responsibility and leadership. We discussed the 4 Leadership roles by NOLS, which are: designated leader, active follower, peer leader, and self leader. At every and any moment of our life, we are living in the paradigm of any one of these leadership roles and there is no exemption.  Being mindful of these roles prepares us for a greater leadership impact in the society. We also start realizing that ethical leaders can change the world and leadership is something which everyone can learn with a conscious and consistent effort.

We also discussed the VUCA environment and how young social leaders can play their role to lead during chaos and uncertainty.   

Samad Leading the VALT Session on Shifting Leadership Impact

Samad Leading the VALT Session on Shifting Leadership Impact

6. What did you enjoy the most about your VALT session? Any highlights you would like to share? Why is it important to have online workshops like VALT especially in times of social distancing? 

Learning is a never ending process – this is what I experienced during the VALT session, where I had almost 30 experienced and able participants, who already are playing an effective leadership role in their own domains. But the way every single participant was actively engaged and participating in an online session was an evidence of their appetite to learn more. Interacting with a diverse and dynamic group of youth leaders was a profound experience for me as well. 

I believe such virtual sessions are not only a source of knowledge but also keep us socially connected and shift our focus from trivial issues surrounding our day to day life. Therefore, in such tough times like being locked down, we must connect and reconnect with positive and like-hearted people so that, at least we ourselves stay positive.   


7. What advice would you share with young people who want to grow their leadership skills and make an impact in their communities? 

Leadership starts with an awareness about your inherent gift which is the ability to change the world - this is the beginning and most of us miss out on the inwardly journey of leadership. Leading people, teams, organizations, and nations comes far later in the order. Self discovery is the most challenging and rewarding expedition from where every young enthusiast must start their leadership journey. Do not rush, give it due time, talk to the trustworthy people around you, listen to your inner voices, reflect, seek light from wise mentors, and you will start feeling the thrill within yourself. That’s where you are ready to begin. Learn to lead yourself and leading others comes as a byproduct.

You can connect with Samad through instagram @samadtrekker and LinkedIn