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"Today and tomorrow, the successful leader is the one who leads the process of learning."
Sir Douglas Hague

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 455

Estimated reading time:  3:00 minutes

 

Have you seen meme’s of people with confederate flags and saying, "you lost, get over it" recently on social media?

 

 

Yes, for many they are funny, even poignantly funny, but the interesting aspect for me is that they are great examples of how we can often see other people’s foibles, follies and biases, but we’re not so good with our own. As leaders, we must consistently be working on our own self-awareness. Trust me, while you have probably not been wearing a Confederate flag on your lapel and told people they lost, get over it, you (and I) have said or done something equally equally ironic, you (and I) have just not been aware of it. 

 

Pretty much anytime you think or say that the problem is the other person, you are not aware that your behaviour, your perspectives, your actions, are at least as responsible. For example, I have this happy little story that I am not racist. At a workshop on fighting racism, a fellow clergy person of colour told me that he would never join a group of white clergy people talking in a group together because he feared wouldn’t fit in the conversation. I realized that I could count on one hand the number of times I did not fit in because of the colour of my skin. I recalled how uncomfortable that had made me feel. And to think, that this person experienced that discomfort every day. My own happy little world that “colour doesn’t matter to me” was ignoring a fundamental experience of friends and colleagues. Every time I had said, I’m not racist, someone somewhere would be rolling their eyes. What had I ever done to ensure that this colleague of mine was welcome to join our circle? Hadn’t I even thought, oh, he’s got his own friends over there (the other clergy who were people of colour)?!

 

 

The very best leaders are the ones who open themselves and their teams to new ideas, and new people, especially those who are different from the status quo. The best leaders reach out across divisions of skin colour, socio-economics, gender and sexuality. They make others feel welcome, they inquire about other people’s experience. The best leaders push away from biases that assume that everyone’s experience of the world is like their own. And they learn from their mistakes and do their best to make amends, as I will be doing with my clergy colleagues who are people of colour. It took someone else’s experience and courage to point out what I couldn’t see in myself. I hope someone does that for you one day soon.