What Can We Learn from our Founding Fathers?
BY SHAHE YENI-KOMSHIAN, M.D.
Today, globalization and technology are changing the rules of the game in leadership positions. Experience counts but no longer carries the premium it once used to. Fresh thinking and ability to adapt are more important qualities. We are witnessing the emergence of a significant number of young leaders at the helm of major organizations and not surprisingly there are times when collaboration prevails as in the case of Google, and other times when friction arises between the younger and the more experienced generations.
History Serves Us Well
Like any other organization, Homenetmen is going through such an evolution. We are encouraging a younger generation to get more involved. Notwithstanding the fact that any leader, young or mature, needs to fulfill the essential criteria of believing in the mission and being dedicated, in organizations such as ours, success is also dependent on factors that affect the culture of collaboration.
Often we reflect back and we are amazed by the fact of how efficient the generation of the Homenetmen founding fathers was. From the pioneer Shavarsh Krissian and his passion to change society by incorporating physical education in to the lives of all Armenians, to Krikor Hagopian who orchestrated the incorporation of our organization and became the national Armenian scoutmaster, notwithstanding Hovhannes Hintlian’s ideological input, guidance and wisdom all thru the journey, today’s generation, young and mature, can learn a lot from the way our founding fathers interacted with each other.
And the fact is that our three founding fathers shared the same vision, complemented each other, and worked as a team. The elders supported the younger Krissian and endorsed his vision. Hintlian and Hagopian did see Krissian’s potential and had no issue with his age. They understood the value of youth induced dynamic change and had the courage to lead and guide him.
Fresh Thinking, Energy of the Youth and Teamwork
Homenetmen was incorporated in 1918 but the preceding years of 1910-1914 were the most formative years. In 1910, the challenge was how to strengthen the Armenian nation by introducing the concept of physical education, a fresh and novel idea at the time, a challenge to the status quo that required change in thinking as well as in action. Those fresh ideas prevailed and led to fruition.
At the time, Hintlian was the elder, Hagopian was the middle aged, and Krissian was the youngest and most active. Hintlian was the wise, respected, experienced mentor. Hagopian was today’s equivalent of the chief executive, who not only brought people together but also led by example in supporting programs both morally and financially. But the reality is that Krissian, the dynamic young activist, was the real dynamo for change. He took advice from others but he was the one that made things happen.
It is noteworthy that in 1910 Krissian was only 25 years of age. What is impressive is what Krissian achieved so much so fast in his tender years of 24-29. However, it is also true that he could not have made such achievements without the guidance and support of his elders and that’s where teamwork comes into play.
Examples are many. In 1909 Krissian returns to Constantinople from Europe full of energy and new ideas. He wants to promote physical education. Who is his biggest supporter who opens doors for him? It is Hintlian, the respected educator and Scudar School principal, who gives him opportunity to practice his newly found knowledge on his students. When time comes in 1911 to publish Marmnamarz in order to promote health education, who is one of the most important writer/contributor? Again, it is Hintlian. He is the Armenian scouting ideologue, the one who introduces the scout movement to the Armenian public. And who is the pragmatic advisor, one of the first to act as a scout leader and at the same time most generous financial supporter of Marmnamarz? It is Krikor Hagopian.
The three leaders were indeed complementary.
A Century and Beyond
Today the geopolitical conditions are vastly different. As a nation we survived the Genocide and individually we all have achieved success. Homenetmen has become a global organization. We now have an independent Republic. And yet our national challenge has remained almost the same, namely how to best assist in the betterment of present and future young Armenian generations, who are proud of their culture and remain engaged with their Armenian identity. Often we struggle in how to best address this challenge.
A century and beyond, we find plenty of parallels to the early days. Today Homenetmen has a number of middle aged Hagopian type leaders, who have been successful in their personal life, are good managers, and many are generous donors. We are fortunate that we still have older, experienced, respected Hintlian-like mentors too. What we lack are the Krissian-like enthusiasts.
True, Krissian was exceptional and cannot be cloned, but if he was capable in his early 20s to introduce such monumental change in Armenian life and traditions, why would we not believe that modern day Krissians cannot do the same. It is not that today, we are devoid of intelligent, dedicated and motivated young leaders. We do have many young leaders who stand out from the crowd with real-world skills.
The key is to bring today’s Hagopian and Hintlian type leaders’ collective conscience into believing in today’s Krissians potentials. But in order to make modern day Krissians to stand out, our collective leadership has to also realize that the age range 20-40 is the most productive and innovative leadership years. We should capitalize on it.
Today’s Generation of Young Leaders
Homenetmen 2018 Centennial is around the corner. My wish is that our present generation of Homenetmen leaders all across the world follow Hintlian’s and Hagopian’s example. Those of us who are experienced should remain engaged, but we ought to explore, find, trust, support, mentor and nurture the new Krissians. Those talented young leaders are present and ought to emerge from the shadow. I have witnessed many of them as scout leaders and young athletes, but also during strategic planning process interactions, young individuals with deep commitment to Homenetmen who possess real-world skills in management, networking, communications, information technology and alike. Many others exist, yet to be discovered. Those young individuals with enormous aptitude are around us. We just have not given them their proper place to shine.
Our generation still believes that we are the guiding light and the only force that can lead our organization. Just like in the world around us, this is not an uncontested fact in Homenetmen either. Today, the real force is the younger and dedicated individual with whom we should try to find a common vision. Our generation will serve well as a mirror that reflects the light to the youth. We have to give them access by improving and modernizing our services. They do have the capacity to shine as well as to lead.
Give and take is necessary for the greater good of the organization. Since the 10th General Meeting in 2011 Homenetmen has now a vision that is aligned with that of the youth. We are at a stage way beyond talk; we are finally taking concrete steps to contemporize our services. What is needed now is to communicate the positive change to the youth through modern media techniques and then provide them a platform and participatory access. They have enormous capacity to help. I am sure they will remain respectful to the elders while bringing their enthusiasm and fresh thinking to the front line. When they feel welcomed they will get engaged. Supervision by adult mentors is of course a necessity, but if the youth feel part of the team they will accept supervision willingly.
It should be the duty of each Regional and Chapter leadership to be proactive, connect with the youth, explain the new approach and bring such young talented individuals to the forefront of the organization with full force, prior to our Centennial.