Updated: Aug 31, 2020
A client reached out today asking for wisdom for this time. I immediately said that I didn’t think I had any. Like many of you, I spent the weekend following the news, trying to understand, feeling shame at my ignorance. Feeling like I was a part of the problem, not the solution. As we talked more, I realized maybe I did in fact have a perspective to share, for if I don’t use my platform (small as it may be), then am I not complicit?
My platform is leadership development. I work with, train and support leaders and the transition from individual contributor to leader. Right now we need leaders, not individuals. Can we apply the same principles of strong leadership to this moment and affect change for the future?
Educate yourself. Great leaders know that they do not have to be the smartest person in the room, but they do need to continuously improvement. There is always more to learn. Seek information and wisdom from sources you trust and continue to be a lifelong learner.
Listen like a leader. Leaders listen with both their heart and their head. Use your head to engage in meaningful dialogue. Meaningful may mean (should mean) discomfort. You should be pushed on your beliefs, challenged outside your comfort zone, question what you may have believed were facts and assure that you have all the data to make informed decisions. Lead with your heart to truly hear and connect with others’ pain, emotion and reality.
Lead others where they are. Leadership is not one size fits all. Every person of color does not show up in the same way or have the same point of view. Take time to understand those in your community and the messages they want you to hear. Engage in meaningful dialogue and avoid stereotypes of all kinds.
Live your core values. What is important to you? Identify your personal core values and be true to them, but also understand that words matter. Think about the difference in saying ‘I’m not a racist’ versus ‘I am anti-racism.’ Or the difference in maintaining ‘I see you as you are and appreciate our differences’ rather than ‘I am colorblind’. Be against. Speak clearly.
Be vulnerable. Leadership is about sharing your shortcomings and owning your missteps. Many leaders hesitate to show weakness, but vulnerability is a leadership strength. Admit you don’t have the answers. Be comfortable saying, ‘I Don’t Know, but I am eager to learn. I am determined to do better.’
In Larry Kim’s 33 Characteristics of Super Inspiring Leaders, the characteristics are divided into 4 quadrants. As I review the traits, so many are required in this moment – as we lead in our communities and in our businesses.
Connecting with Others – Humility, Commonality, Listening
Leading the Team – Empowerment, Harmony, Vision, Focus
Setting the Tone – Worldview, Unselfishness, Responsibility
Developing Inner Resources – Emotional Expression, Stress Tolerance, Optimism
So what now? I’d like to share some of the resources I have found helpful over the past week (just a few). It is the obligation of each of us to understand why this moment (late as it is) is a time for change and what we are each able and called upon to do. [Be sure to scroll through slides for each post to see the full message.]
This moment is not about me: my discomfort, sadness or shame. There is work to be done. Hard work. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and lead. Are you?