These are the words of Malala Yousafzai in her speech after she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. As a staunch advocate for the education of girls worldwide, she is the youngest Nobel winner in history. When I look at Malala’s story, I see what’s possible when you take on a challenge that’s much bigger than you, scarier than you ever thought you could handle, and succeeding in the face of impossible odds.
Witnessing Malala speak out and boldly support education initiatives for girls worldwide is to see courage in action. In spite of threats to her life, she is using her experience on the world’s stage to shine a light on the plight of millions of girls who seek a formal education.
As adults and business leaders, there are essential leadership lessons we can learn from Malala. Her courage and unwavering conviction illustrate – to both women and men – what’s really possible when you dedicate yourself to overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds in support of what you believe in.
Here’s a 3-lesson success formula we can learn from Malala and put into action right now, even in the face of impossible odds:
See your challenges as potential for growth:
Malala’s journey began in her home country of Pakistan, where her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, taught school and instilled in her and her brothers the importance of education.
As a young girl, her opportunities began to shrink after the Taliban increased its foothold in Pakistan.
Malala could have obliged and done nothing, instead, she did this:
Decide to take action:
In 2009, she began secretly writing a blog for the BBC under a pseudonym about her fear of an attack on her school.
The Taliban eventually banned music and television and forbade women freedoms as innocuous as shopping. Soon after, Malala’s father was told to close his school.
A New York Times documentary revealed Malala’s connection to the BBC Blog, which put her in grave danger. Yet, amid death threats, Malala continued to speak out on the rights of girls to achieve a proper education.
In the Fall of 2012, as she and her friends were returning from school, a masked gunman entered their bus and asked for Malala by name. She was shot with a single bullet to her head; it also penetrated her neck and shoulder. Miraculously Malala survived.
What she did next was what would ignite change globally…
Own your story:
Malala became a global advocate in 2013 for millions of girls who are denied a formal education due to social, economic, legal, and political factors.
She truly stepped into this role by mastering the art of persuasion, and she became a storyteller. She admits to spending hours in front of the bathroom mirror practicing speeches.
She knew that it was her story that would bring people to feel the urgency of her plight and to take action.
Malala’s story demonstrates heroism and tremendous strength in the face of impossible odds. It’s a shining example of what is possible when you take on a challenge that’s bigger than you think you’re capable of handling.
She and her father co-founded the Malala Fund to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education, and to empower girls to raise their voices, unlock their potential, and demand change.
She is now a champion for the 60 million girls worldwide, girls who dream of open access to education and the freedom to pursue their full potential.
Malala Yousafzai is a Woman Igniting Change, and today, we salute her.