It is Black History Month in the United States! I’ve got to admit, I love Black History month. It makes me feel connected to my culture and proud.
Proud of all the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans, both present and past.
So I was thinking about Black Americans and Leadership and some obvious folks came to mind; President Barack Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Angela Davis, and the thousands of unsung heroes.
Then I started to think about their leadership and I wondered…
Why were these leaders so impactful and what we can learn from them?
What I came up with is their willingness to take a risk!
Leadership is risky and leading through adversity is even riskier. Leaders by their very nature stand out and stand up, and place themselves in a precarious position.
Think about it…as leaders, effective leaders, we:
- Make decisions that impact others
- Challenge the status quo
- Set the agenda and prioritize
- Take the heat when you or others are wrong
- Hold yourself and others accountable
These are scary things to do. It takes guts.
There is a lot riding on you, your ideas, and your decisions; good leaders spend a lot of time thinking about “what if” but great leaders don’t let that paralyze them.
Great leaders are willing to take the risk. They risk being unpopular (even temporarily), judged, criticized, and challenged.
As the leader, you make the tough and often unpopular decisions, and challenge others to do more and do better. The Black American leaders that will be celebrated this month are great examples of people who successfully led in the face of criticism and unpopularity. But what we remember is the legacy they built.
Leading while you are young is risky!
You are being bold and audacious and challenging the belief that great leaders are older leaders. And while there is certainly truth to the fact that we get better with age, it does not preclude you from being a great leader now.
- Your willingness to stand out and step up makes you a great leader now!
- Your willingness to be unpopular and make the tough calls makes you a great leader now!
- Your willingness to challenge the status quo makes you a great leader now!
- Your willingness to accept what you don’t know makes you a great leader now!
Not everyone is willing to take these risks. But YOU ARE. You are willing to lay it on the line for others and take the risk.
Maybe risk is the part of leadership you hate. I mean why wouldn’t you?
It’s uncomfortable and stress inducing. I get that prickly feeling in the pit of my stomach EVERY time I take a risk, but I am learning to become more and more comfortable with it.
Because great leaders have to, just think of all the other great leaders who were willing to take the risk and lasting legacy they built. It inspires me to think of my own legacy and what I’m willing to risk to build it.
So I challenge you to be inspired this month by those who have shown us the way and taken the risk to lead.