This week I’ve been thinking a lot about exactly what makes a leader. I think if you ask most people, they’ll say things like integrity, forthrightness, ability to inspire. And yet when we look at most of the people who are actually in positions of power, it seems like these kinds of qualities can be hard to find.
There’s a big disconnect between power and leadership. And I’m not entirely sure how we combat that, but I do think there is something deeply important about encouraging more people to see leadership qualities within themselves.
If you look at studies about leadership, most of us still picture the straight white man as the image of the leader. It’s not what we want to believe, but it’s still been reinforced in us our entire lives. Heck, just look at our current field of presidential candidates. White men have no lack of confidence in their abilities to be a leader. No experience? Doesn’t matter. No one knows who you are? Don’t care. No one wants you to join? Coming in anyway!
And yet somehow it’s the women candidates who are fielding the questions about likeability or “if the country is ready for them”.
I’m not saying to bring white men down (although some of them really should try a little self-reflection), but I do think we need to do more to bring everyone else up.
We need to embrace the image of a leader as so much more. Someone who is young, someone who is trans, someone who is plus sized, someone who speaks English as a second language.
And it’s not just seeing it in other people. We need to see leadership in ourselves. That our voice matters just as much, even when it feels like no one wants to listen. That our experience is valid, and can help make the path smoother for those behind us. That we know just as much, often more, than those who only care about power.
What leadership qualities do you have? What makes your voice special?