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Leading Well Is An Antidote for Inequity

In honor of International Women's Day, inviteCHANGE CEO and Best Selling Author, Janet M. Harvey #choosestochallenge us to look toward the day when our society no longer requires designating a day or a month for any category of human beings to be showcased in order to be seen and appreciated. Join her in challenging assumptions, interpretations, and sovereign choice making.

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#ChoosetoChallenge is the hashtag for celebrating International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021, as part of a month-long celebration for Women’s History Month. As the organizers declared, “a challenging world is an alert world.” I choose to challenge all of us to look toward the day when our society no longer requires designating a day or a month for any category of human beings to be showcased in order to be seen and appreciated. Instead I yearn for a time that we continuously celebrate the ingenuity, creativity, caring and tenacious character of all people who contribute to our world in positive ways. I long for what’s working to be a higher priority in our social dialogue and media than stories that evoke fear as our focus of attention. While circumstances occur that are fear-provoking, let’s be more curious about what restores the harmony that was disrupted and resulted in choices by others that put people in harm’s way. The science is clear, belonging with each other as human beings, and the pursuit of love not hate, is part of human DNA. No outer characteristic for how we describe being humans, size, cultural origin, the color of skin, the shape of our heads, or the color of eyes accounts for the difference in intellectual and emotional capability by more than 0.01 percent. Othering is a dangerous myth that perpetuates fear and is counter to what we must experience as a society to survive and ultimately thrive.

Leading and leadership could become the shining star for equity in our society. I realize many don’t believe they are a leader and perhaps, do not aspire to be based upon some exclusive definition for the terms. However, at a minimum, you are a leader of you. Each day, you awaken and make choices, hundreds of choices throughout the day. Those choices lead to actions and interactions that demonstrate what you value and find important in your life. People around you notice your choices and use their observations and experiences with you to construct a story about who you are, your character, your capability and your contribution to them and the world. In this way, you are already a leader of others even though it may be an unconscious choice for you. Both personal and professional roles incorporate continuous leading. Being deliberate with your choices is a first step in leading well.

Being alert to your choices and the influence those choices have upon others is a next step to leading well. Children are often marvelous teachers. One afternoon while visiting our grandsons, I took a break from working and joined them on the floor with their treasure of logo pieces. At first, I was very alert and engaged, in a state of wonder at their imaginations as they told me a story while they created a masterpiece spaceship. At some point, I clearly let my attention drift when one grandson said to me, “Grandma, you always talk about being present, and you’re not right now with us, why?” A truth-telling moment for sure and an invaluable lesson! I realized as I answered the question, that once I had figured out what they were creating I had room for other thoughts to creep in and I sure let those other thoughts capture me. Uh oh. That choice meant I was ‘doing’ Grandmother by making time rather than “being” Grandmother by creating time to be in relationship, allowing my unconditional attention and engagement to demonstrate the importance my heart truly felt for the amazing expression in their play. Worse yet, as my grandson pointed out, I was out of integrity with my own beliefs and values for the importance of full presence. Your choices matter. If you want to be seen and appreciated for being a caring leader be sure to choose your words and deeds deliberately and with respect for the others who are also making a choice to be with you.

As a US citizen, living in the US, the principle of freedom, freedom of choice, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is something I was socialized to believe as available to all. It’s a lie; it’s a spoken philosophy that we do not live up to as a society. The inequity in today’s society is an ugly tolerance that many generations of people have perpetuated. In the spirit of choosing to challenge, you do have the power to stop tolerating choices that people make around you, in your everyday activities and conversations, when those interactions clearly marginalize, exclude, oppress or bully another person. So many courageous women in our country have led tirelessly by sharing their voices about the injustice at the ballot box. Sadly, this continues to be necessary to this day as our country contends with nearly 250 bills in US State houses that seek to limit voting rights, bullying some populations to address the fear in a different population of not succeeding in elections.

In my work with leaders over the past three decades, I’ve adopted a principle I call personal sovereignty. This idea is an exploration in choice-making, the choice to exercise an inner authority about how I relate to the conditions of my life. Freedom does not stand alone as a fantasy or simply an aspirational concept. Freedom stands inextricably with responsibility. Responsibility to act with integrity and respect for self and other. I salute the women who have walked before me on whose shoulders I now stand and raise my voice for leading well. One role model I want to acknowledge is Eleanor Roosevelt, who represented the United States on the United Nations committee for human rights. In December of 1947, the first Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN and serves as a guiding document and set of principles to this day. At the time, Eleanor wrote to a friend, “I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing – which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from oppression and to fully develop one’s personality.” We still have much work to do in the world to live into the promise of this declaration. Leading well is a responsibility we must each inhabit every day.

Janet M. Harvey, MCC

Experienced with individuals at the Board of Directors, “C” Chair, Executive and Senior Management levels, Janet assists executives in adopting effective habits of perception and behavior to lead and accelerate corporate strategies. Typical engagements address executive development in the following areas: articulate and inspire through clarity of vision, enable respectful challenge, debate and catalyze synergy for strategic business choices, risk/reward critical thinking about investments and shareholder value, plan leader succession and architect sustainable cultural/strategic change.
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