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Inspiring the next generation - by David Benigson

Posted: 09 September 2011

Having written on Monday about my visit to the One Young World Summit in Zurich, I have been thinking about what makes a visionary leader.

One of the people who really stood out at the summit as a true leader was Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi banker and economist. Previously a professor of economics, Yumus developed the concept of micro-credit – loans given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify through the traditional banking system. In 2006, he and his social bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their “efforts to create economic and social development from below.” In fact, he is the only economist ever to have won the prize. Yunus has now taken this social business model into other sectors. Mobile phones, drinking water, yoghurt for malnourished children, and solar power for rural homes are all part of Yunus’s many initiatives.

Social banking is estimated to have extended credit to more than seven million of the world’s poorest, a large number of them in Bangladesh. The vast majority of the beneficiaries are women, as his micro-finance initiatives reach out to people shunned by conventional banking systems. Few dispute that Yunus has created a legacy of real social change in Bangladesh. During his speech, he said that he found it amusing that, while commercial banks could no longer lend under the pressure of toxic debts, his banks were overwhelmed with new customers. Like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who also spoke at the Summit, Yunus suggested that this generation is the most powerful and knowledgeable yet. The speed of communication provided by social media has made the distance between the possible and impossible very small.


Yunus’s leadership skills are centred around constructing a vision, defining an organisational philosophy and empowering people who would otherwise be powerless. He has not only addressed the overwhelming issue of global poverty, he has enabled others to become leaders in their community. He ended his speech by saying: “Look at the tiniest village and the tiniest person in that village. If you create the environment to support that person, they can change their life.” Now that’s what I call a leader! Let Moira know who has inspired you:

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