It’s easy in retrospect to identify the names of the leaders we’ve celebrated this year, but understanding their successes and the progress they champion is important to identify the leaders of 2015, or to emulate their incredible behavior. We outline five of our most celebrated individuals and the work they’ve achieved this year.
Duration : 2 min to read
Now an internationally renowned advocate for peace, equality, and education, Malala Yousafzai was just 15 when a masked gunman boarded her school bus in Pakistan and asked for her by name. Yousafzai’s outspoken criticism of the Taliban, which she had publicized with unimaginable bravery via a BBC blog and a New York Times documentary, had made her an enemy of the terror regime that organized the shooting that she, against all odds, survived. Now living in the UK, she is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize which she earned for her continued struggle against the suppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to an education.
Fondly nicknamed ‘Jokowi’ by the people of Indonesia, Joko Widodo assumed his role as the seventh president of the country in October 2014. His democratic election demonstrates the remarkable progress Indonesia has made since claiming its independence in 1945, having spent most of the subsequent decades with leaders whose offices approached the definition of dictatorships. Widodo’s presidency already illustrates the new age of Indonesia, as he works sincerely to include the people of Indonesia in his decisions and policies by walking around the streets, talking with the communities.
Proving that even the oldest institutions have to adapt and embrace change, the head of the Catholic Church has spent much of 2014 subverting external conceptions of his religion. His steady reformation of a deeply traditional organization has shocked both members and non-members alike. Early signs of his individuality were his choosing to drive around Rome in a Ford Focus and declining to live in the lavish apartments his predecessors occupied, and since his appointment he has created a group of cardinals dedicated to reform, washed the feet of a female Muslim prisoner, and, in response to queries about homosexuality, answered with the incredible “who am I to judge?”
Sampat Pal Devi
The head of India’s vigilante pink sari revolution was ousted by its members in an upsetting fragmentation of the extraordinary women’s movement, but there’s no denying the remarkable work she and all members of the Gulabi Gang have achieved. Fighting the patriarchal culture since 2006, rigid caste divisions, female illiteracy, domestic violence, child labor, child marriages, and dowry demands of India’s largest region Uttar Pradesh, Devi reminds the world that the poorest and most vulnerable people can organize, oppose, and progress even in the most horrifying conditions.
Having leaked classified information from the National Security Agency of the United States last year, Edward Snowden is now in exile in Russia, charged by the US Department of Justice with two counts of violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property. The estimated 200,000 files he exposed cover the extraordinary scale of internet surveillance. Snowden’s continued dedication to civil liberties is a strong voice amongst those calling for the rolling back of the Big Brother state – the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, is another staunch advocate.
Today’s definition and concept of a leader is different from previous understandings of one – identifying wrongdoing, pioneering new processes and programs, and becoming the voice of a cause are all integral to change in the modern world. Whilst there are of course thousands of people worldwide inspiring this sort of progress, we think our five represent some of the greatest steps being taken forward today.