This week I’m trying something different. There will be a series of guest blogposts every other day from a good friend doing amazing work. I met Mo through Seth Godin’s Akimbo workshops – two aid workers in marketing workshops. Odd, but also instant connection. We’ve never met in person, but every time we talk I’m left pondering for over a week. Today is me (amos).
I grew up in a very white and male household in a white, immigrant community. There are many things I didn’t question growing up – i.e. why was it ok for farm workers, who came from the Caribbean, to be put in poor accommodation? But also, I knew my parents had made clear decisions not to employ offshore labour in that way because they somehow didn’t agree with it. And through my parents, I learned to see the person not the circumstances. I grew up in close connection with my extended family which is full of unbelievably strong women – from my Grandma to my aunts to my cousins. And many were advocates for refugees.
Yesterday, Mo challenged us to think about think about leaders who also happen to be persons of colour. How do they inspire us and what do we learn from them. While my upbringing was very white, my aid work has been very diverse. In my day job, I have had the privilege of working with many amazing leaders of colour – brown and black. However, interestingly I rarely ‘see’ colour and I don’t know if that is a good thing or not. But on to the leaders.
But first, and I know it might be cliché, I need to start with Mandela and Obama. Whenever I think of Mandela, I think of forgiveness. His wisdom in knowing revenging all the wrongs he experienced in his lifetime was not the path to take stands out for me.
For me, Obama reminds me about quiet confidence and being comfortable in his skin. Yes, he knew how to play to an audience and was good at basketball, but loved his care for people and how he used words.
But beyond the celebrities. I have worked with some amazing people of colour. Richard, Rudo, Eric, Jean-Claude, Trihadi, Jimmy, Ayu, Margie, Claudio, to name a few. Some of them are ‘loud’ leaders, but most are quiet disruptors. And all are incredibly strong with compassion oozing out of their pores. From all of them I have learned the importance of kindness and care in leadership.
What I know for sure now is having leaders of colour, diverse leaders with voices, enriching our projects, our communities, and lives more than we realise. Without this diversity we will make worse decisions.