2017 Summit Speaker Spotlight: We Are The Leaders We’ve Been Looking For
noun: leader; plural noun: leader
1. the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.
Often times our definitions of leadership focus on titles that denote powerful positions of influence. As such many of us are socialized to believe that leaders are people such as established CEOs, class presidents, politicians or even alpha personalities in social groups. In this article, I want to challenge this limited definition to focus on the power of collective leadership as we work to foster an ecosystem of change.
The late activist, author and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs once said “We have to rethink the concept of leader, because leader implies follower. I think we need to embrace the idea that we are the leaders we’ve been looking for.” This phrase resonates with me deeply, especially in these challenging times that we live in. I believe that in order to realize the change that we seek to create we also have to embody that change rather than wait on someone else to bring it about. With the fierce urgency of now we cannot just rely on the so-called leaders who are supposed to realize the hopes of the future. In many ways, the idealized superhero/shero versions of leaders that we create today all too often foster passivity in the face of injustice, and a feeling of powerlessness in the face adversity.
If you do not see the change happening in your local community that you would like to see, I challenge you to start something new. To not just wait on someone else to address your community’s needs but to take matters into your own hands. Yes, we may not have all the systems of privilege and power on our side, but our capacity to be agents of change—however big or small—is not to be underestimated. I think back to examples like the Black Panther Party’s local Oakland based free breakfast program which—not without major resistance from the American government—also became the seed planted to inspire what we know today as free and reduced lunch programs which span public schools all across the United States. Indeed, small acts of resistance and proactive change making are often at the foundation of profound change.
Further it is important to take into account the power of collective action and shared leadership. Too often leadership in the United States is boiled down to a single person who becomes the icon or the figurehead of a movement, organization or institution. I think it’s about time that we shift this perspective to center what in South African philosophy is called ‘ubuntu’ meaning “I am because you are.”
Leadership, to me, is not just about the fierce individual at the helm of the ship whether that be a President or a great civil rights leader such as MLK. Leadership is about our ability to leverage our interdependence as a means of creating solidarity, unity and compassion that everyone has a role in creating. We are, indeed, the leaders that we’ve been waiting for and this is our time to join hands and rise together.
To see Aisha’s keynote performance ‘Art as a Catalyst for Change’ and Leadership ‘Awaken Track’ Seminar at the 2017 GlobeMed Summit, please visit bit.ly/leadingbravely.
Photo credit: Lone Wolf Magazine Photoshoot by Jen Lovely