Being a leadership coach I spend a lot of time discussing the dynamics of how people effectively lead with my clients. Some clients are local, some are from larger companies with whom I have contracted before to assist their mid-level or junior executive leaders with their organizations. Leadership, both good and bad surrounds us at every corner in today’s world, whether it be on the international, national, state, municipal, and especially the Queer community levels. I’ve met few people in the GLBT community who do not have a strong and solid penchant to complain, criticize, compare, or be competitive when it comes to leadership and the vision, strategy, and action that comes from those leaders. The traditional criticism has to do with leadership actions, decisions, or directions—or the total lack thereof. In my October 2013 Queer Shift column I tackled TRUST, which I believe is still at the core of why leadership does of does not work. I had focused on Trust as a topic because many I had been talking to seemed to have it as the core value they thought was missing from local Queer leadership. Here we are 9, almost 10 months later, and it appears that little has changed. As a columnist—you have a sincere desire that what you select to write about, the research time and energy you take to formulate your writing will make a difference, give the reader pause, and cause either some serious internal or external thinking, and at best create change. Change in small steps or in huge shifts within the community. Leaders come, leaders go, some are great, some good, some just suck. Fact!
I am a TED TALK junkie. Full-blown, need to be in rehab addict level! A perfect day for me would be to sit, work, work out, cook dinner, sip wine, garden, while watching or listening to as many brilliant TED Talks as possible. And they are all brilliant! It’s my way of giving my brain a regular boner. If you haven’t encountered TED Talks, here’s a quickie explanation. (Watch just one, you’ll be hooked too.) TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event. TED’s early emphasis was technology and design. The TED main conference is held annually in Vancouver, British Columbia and its companion TEDActive is held in Whistler. TED events are also held throughout North America and in Europe and Asia. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling, (which is also why I adore them.) The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Brene Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Bono, Mike Rowe, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners. By 2012, TED Talks had been watched one billion times worldwide.
One recent TED Talk that I encountered was brilliantly delivered by Simon Sinek, a management theorist who posits the gigantic question—what makes a great leader? Sinek suggests it’s someone who makes their employees (or those they lead) feel secure, safe, who draws staffers (or community members) into a circle of trust. But creating trust and safety —means taking on big responsibility. Catch it if you can, you won’t be sorry—here’s the link
I am sure many of you—like me watched THE NORMAL HEART by Larry Kramer on HBO a few weeks ago. I found it riveting, phenomenal playwriting and acting, and a superb reflection of a significant historical past of HIV/AIDS in the late 70’s and 80’s. Still today, as in the play, some have criticized Kramer for being polarizing, too radical in his leadership and desire for change. I am a true believer that great leaders like Kramer keep on giving, keep on earning it. I also feel successful leaders own their era, the movement, the issues, policies, and the thinking they are attempting to change. Great leaders tell the truth that most others do not wish to hear. Either that—or often worse they veil in secrecy the information the people they lead are screaming to know and better understand.
Here’s a challenge to all leaders who are in charge of leading any group, community, state, and beyond:
- As stated earlier, create a safe place for all, safety in the comprehensive sense of the word.
- Operate so the culture, community, state, nation belongs to everybody, and is their responsibility.
- Listen, solicit solutions that are fully representative and beneficial to the community, and then lead efforts towards fruition of the those better solutions.
- When speaking be both courageous, tell the truth, but also be courteous in how you deliver the message of leadership.
- Keep confidences, confront gossip, find out all the facts.
- Openness and transparency are extremely important, a shared vision leads to success.
- Encourage those you lead to be engaged, part of the solution, regardless of whether you personally like them. Ownership means everything for people to embrace change.
- Operate daily with an abundance versus scarcity mentality.
- Honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity are three values you must constantly display.
- Collaboration, cooperation, creativity, compromise, and true celebration, are the tools of accomplished leaders.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
―Ralph Waldo Emerson