Yes, I'm pulling these three together. Keep reading.
In April, I shared my thoughts about leaders we need to recognize. I wrote about how I needed to remind myself that there are awesome leaders out there, and they are working hard to move us (us = communities, cities, states, provinces, and countries—heck, the world) forward in a safe for all manner.
Before I share ideas on how messy leadership is, a few new (and fun) items to share:
OK, welcome back from the Zoom dog meeting. I have thoughts about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Harvey Milk, and leadership.
I’m guessing the two of them never met. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a famous basketball player, and Harvey Milk was a famous activist.
Here's how I'm tying them together.
This week Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a piece for The Guardian. He wants to help Donald Trump, who Abdul-Jabbar feels is “incapable of uniting the country.” (I will try to keep quiet with my opinions; I suppose by writing that, I have declared in big, red CAPS how I feel, too. Not sorry.).
So, Abdul-Jabbar has written a motivational speech for Trump. Read it. It’s really good.
BTW, Abdul-Jabbar is a really talented writer. Sherlock Holmes fans: you need to read his book, Mycroft Holmes. So fun.
In his suggested speech, Abdul-Jabbar mentions the word “mistakes” and also the word “excuse.”
I think one thing he’s doing is calling leadership messy.
He’s right. Leadership is messy.
And despite all my intentions to coach myself to see the best (the Leader Hosen) in what’s out there now, it’s getting difficult.
The past few weeks I’ve been hanging on to lots of emotional baggage around how messy things are. How messy leadership is.
Leadership can be ugly and mean in its messiness.
It’s fighting bad guys, however you define them: your competition, the rules, City Hall (the Brady Bunch fought City Hall and saved a park! And if you need a more recent example, people are always fighting City Hall in “Parks and Recreation”), other people’s assumptions about you, and finally, we all have this big, bad enemy in common: COVID-19.
And leadership can also be cute and random and end up messy.
My first best friend was named Rachel. She lived up the street from me, in the hills of Noe Valley, in San Francisco.
Her parents were teachers and activists, and my parents were busy starting a business and also believers in kids roaming free, so one day in 1977, Rachel and I walked over the hill from 20th and Sanchez and down to the Castro (here’s a good, short history of the area if you're unfamiliar with the role it’s played on a global scale).
Rachel’s mom was helping someone in their election office. That someone was Harvey Milk. (Harvey Milk was a civil and human rights leader who was assassinated in 1978, along with the San Francisco Mayor at the time, George Moscone.)
So, Leila and Rachel walk on over to see what her mom’s up to. And we met Harvey Milk. I didn’t know who he was. I do remember there were snacks and he was smiling at us.
We walked home wearing Harvey Milk election buttons. I still have mine somewhere in the boxes of kid junk at my parents’ house.
You can check out the button here.
It reads, “I am all of us.”
I don’t think things have changed that much—or have they?
We’re all here. Trying to figure it out. Wearing masks, washing hands, wishing we could just go have a beer or a cup of coffee together and struggle to hear each other speak—because the place is so crowded.
We are all, “I am all of us.”
So, back to my point.
Leadership is messy. In the past that meant a bad boss, rude coworkers, confusion around goals, lack of any feedback, and learning a new skill while impatient people lurk behind you, looking at your screen.
In terms of COVID-19, it means testing is hard or impossible, toilet paper is still scarce (how about those empty hotel rooms—lots of TP there), people are losing their jobs by the millions (times that by 10), and people are dying alone. And so many businesses are failing.
It’s super messy. And heartbreaking. And we sure could use a motivational speech now.
So, read what Abdul-Jabbar says. And read Queen Elizabeth’s speech on the 75th anniversary of VE Day. And watch dogs have Zoom meetings. One of them might get sacked, yikes.
And remember: “I am all of us.”
Let me know your questions and thoughts—and the leaders around you wearing Leader Hosen,
(still in a house with two teenagers, a husband, and a Corgi, and drinking too much coffee)
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