Is it in you? The current leader of our country is a man by the name of Donald Trump. President Trump is by far one of the most polarizing people in the world, alive or dead. People either love him or hate him. Interestingly, people who loved him in the months and weeks leading up to the election have since crossed over. Ironically, I don’t think he has been successful in converting citizens in the other direction. We all know how non-citizens feel about our beloved President Trump.
In the early days of his presidency, I found myself sympathizing with him. Not in a way that you would comfort with a friend who is experiencing a difficult situation but maybe more like you would avail yourself to an associate- I felt sad but not deeply moved. While I didn’t vote for him, he is the president of the United States of America. How he was able to secure this appointment. Some may never know.
That’s the thing about leaders. Some are in your face and it is evident to see why people would rally behind them or against them. Others are quiet and stealth like our awesome navy seal team. You see all leaders look just a little different.
Outwardly and inwardly.
What kind of leader are you?
Over the course of this article, I will highlight some prominent and not-so-prominent leaders we can learn a thing or two from. Through this exploration, we will identify different qualities that would serve you personally and athletically.
Being a mom is underrated. From a very young age, little girls all over the world covet reaching this peak in their lives. Unintentionally, we hurry the process of mothering.
Just think about it, how old were you when you got your first baby doll? How old was your sister? These dolls are not only cute little plastic pals; they are advanced in their upkeep these days. A "Baby Alive" doll talks, can use wet a diaper and even cry.
Although it is lighthearted, the thought of training a child for mothership so early scares me. However, I recognize and appreciate the value of motherhood and its ability to make a leader out of you.
I am a Mom of a fantastic little girl. She is named after my husband and I's favorite French city that we've never visited. She is my hope and my future but forces me to live in the present. We have been intentional about her toys, her meals, her schedule and her influences. While she does enjoy Bubble Guppies, I am sure not to give her too much screen time. I want to protect her curiosity. I want to protect her development curve. I want to protect her.
You see the role of a Mom is one that is met with expectancy and urgency. If you aren’t careful, you will be consumed by what could happen instead of what is occurring right in front of your face. Mom’s are present leaders. Their magic is in their ability to be in the moment and remain calm even in the midst of chaos.
The price of motherhood is high and many times undervalued. This does not negate the priority of the position or the fact that a mother’s job is never done. We can learn a lot from these leaders, our mom’s.
Take some time and chat with your Mom. Find out how she does what she does. Find out where her strength comes from. Search her routine, rituals, and rhythm. I am confident you will see something you didn’t see before because Mom’s are magic. Perhaps that’s just it. Maybe you learn that you are magic too.
Maybe you are reading this and you don’t have a Mom. It could be that you don’t have a Dad either. Look to however you feel is raising you. Perhaps that is a grandparent, aunt, uncle or older sibling. I am sure they have some magic they could sprinkle on you too.
The First Lady
Mrs. Michelle Obama. How we miss you.
When President Barack Obama was elected, it was a shot heard round the world.
I remember being in my dorm room on election night riddled with fear. I was afraid of him being elected. I was scared of him not being elected. As I sat in my fear awaiting the confirmation, I drifted asleep. Shortly after his win was announced, I was awakened by a brief congratulatory cheer sounding from outside my window. The joy soon dulled by an onslaught of boos. And just like that, I was confronted with where I was.
Physically, I was on the campus of a predominately white university, and emotionally I was still captive. In the days that followed emotionally, I was afraid to be visually happy for the election of our first black president. I was equally afraid to acknowledge my fear for his life.
I remember watching the First Lady on screen in full admiration of her husband. She beamed with excitement. Not an ounce of fear was present. Not on November 4, 2008, and not one day throughout his presidency.
First Lady Obama was a fearless companion. She was a champion of style, grace, and class. She was consistent to her causes and led with compassion. She tackled education reform and health in wellness in a way that was kind but calculated. I don’t think we ever saw her coming. But President Obama did. He knew precisely the companion he had chosen to be by his side so many years ago on the Southside of Chicago, and she was the same now as she was then.
President Obama was quoted in the December 2016 issue of Vogue marveling at his wife's ability to take on the role of First Lady of the United States, also know as FLOTUS.
“Michelle never asked to be First Lady,” he said. “Like a lot of political spouses, the role was thrust upon her. But I always knew she’d be incredible at it, and put her own unique stamp on the job. That’s because who you see is who she is—the brilliant, funny, generous woman who, for whatever reason, agreed to marry me. I think people gravitate to her because they see themselves in her—a dedicated mom, a good friend, and someone who’s not afraid to poke a little fun at herself from time to time.”
Their partnership restored so much hope to the African American community. Seeing a healthy relationship play out on television, in the news, in the oval office is something I will forever be grateful for. From observing our former First Lady, I think I became a little more fearless. I certainly recognized that it was possible to stand confidently in the face of fear and adversity. I accepted that fear would cause some people to go low, but I could choose to go high.
Undoubtedly you will face challenges. The whole premise behind sports is to challenge what the human body can withstand. How do you respond to uncomfortable situations? Does the fearless leader arise in you? Are you able remain in character when challenged in a game situation? Disrespected even?
The Talk Show Host
Confession. I watch too much television. As hard as I try to limit my exposure, I still fall prey to the occasional binge session. Netflix and chill anyone? I am not proud of this, but I accept that television is powerfully addictive. In part because of the garbage like reality shows. Watching episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians serves as a mindless watch, background noise, and even comic relief. While that may not be the intention, I’m thankful for it.
I do miss shows of more substance like Family Matters and the Oprah Winfrey Show. I miss seeing scripted shows with the intent to grow people. Shows that people could discuss during the commercial breaks and long after the episode aired. Not in a matter or gossip but of growth.
Miss Oprah Winfrey is widely known for being a phenomenal talk show host. While true, Miss Winfrey is way more than that.
She is a survivor
She is an activist
She is a billionaire
To me, she is the definition of the word perseverance.
Winfrey had a troubled childhood where she was the victim of sexual assault via incest and family friends. She took this pain and decades later turned it into a proposal. She proposed a bill to Congress in light of children’s rights. Shortly after, then President, Bill Clinton signed the bill that would require all convicted sex offenders to be entered into a database. Sound familiar?
Oprah is evidence that you can survive and thrive. According to Forbes magazine, Oprah was the wealthiest African American of the 20th century and the world's only Black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. I am not selling you hoop dreams. It isn’t my intention to paint a picture of unicorns and rainbows. The point I am trying to make is that the end doesn’t have to look like the beginning. Growth takes time.
Leaders, like Oprah, don’t tread carefully. Instead, they pack up all of their stuff and move forward on a mission. Oprah was fired from one of her very first jobs in the television and radio. It is rumored that during this experience she was told she wouldn’t amount to much. They were right. She amounted to a lot. Like 2.6 billion.
From Oprah, we can also learn that leadership is actionable. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and work. Let your actions tell your story before your mouth can. When your audience is ready for what you have to say, blow them away. Blow them away with your character, integrity, and ability to grow flowers through concrete.
Confession number two: I do not watch the news.
According to my brother, “That is unfortunate.” My brother is quite worldly. His goal in life is to be able to be able to insert himself into any conversations, with anyone, and have something to contribute. While this is admirable, I still do not feel compelled to watch the news.
My level of “wokeness” is questioned all the time, and I’m okay with that.
I am fine with that because I’d rather not read, and watch, stories like that of the 19-year-old who took an Uber to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed 17 kids then walked to Walmart to purchase a drink from Subway.
I would rather not read that a former USA Olympic Gymnastics Doctor and current University Athletics Physician abused his privilege and assaulted one hundred and fifty girls. Since sentencing about a hundred more women have come forward. To wrap my head around such cowardliness I am drawn to address undeniable courage of the victims.
Victimization is real. Courageous acts, like speaking out against sexual assault, all too often result in scrutiny, judgment, and misrepresentation all too often accompany courageous actions. The vetting of the victim is usually enough to keep them from coming forward. Let’s not forget the shame. The shame that somehow you solicited or encouraged someone to disrespect you and your body.
Merriam Webster defines courage this way: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty
Dictionary.com has this way of defining it: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
Team USA Gymnasts, Michigan State Athletes and the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School I applaud your courage. Your act of bravery in the face of difficulty, danger and fear is the living definition of courage. From you we can choose to act with courage and not cower.
The Civil Rights Activists
There was a time in American history when choosing your seat was a privilege. Sitting in the wrong seat could result in being jailed.
Mrs. Rosa Parks learned this the hard way.
Most of us are familiar with Mrs. Parks’ story. Did you know that Mrs. Parks was not the first African American to give up her seat?
Meet Miss Ida B. Wells. Wells was a Mississippi born activist. While Wells was born a slave because emancipation came to the south when she was a child she has the opportunity to go to school.
In 1884 Ida B. Wells refused to give up her seat in the women’s car on a train in Memphis, Tennessee. Miss Wells successfully purchased a first class ticket but later was asked to join the African American car. Unlike Parks, Wells obliged the request, but she didn’t go quietly. She filed a lawsuit and won!
A few years later it was overturned, but instead of accepting defeat she took to writing. Wells used journalism as an outlet to stand up for what was right.
Wells and Parks not only showed extreme courage but persistence. Great leaders find a way to proceed, even if it with initial caution.
Leadership often requires changing course. Moving with the tide. Being able to ride the highs and the lows of life with ease and glide.
You may not be an activist. You may not even be team captain. There are still leadership qualities in you.
Consider the following questions:
How do you manage opposition?
Are you a natural problem solver?
Does challenge make you rise up?
Are you starting to see the leader in you yet? I sure hope so.
Bringing It All Home
Earlier in this article, I confessed that I watch too much television. I shared how I engage in this mindless activity intentionally. Although many of the shows I sometimes choose to watch add no real value to my life I still choose them.
Upon reflection, this is far worse than I initially thought. I am a leader. I have a daughter. I am someone’s mother.
Consciously or sub-consciously I am creating a culture of family that challenges what I claim my values are. No disrespect to the Kardashians, Shonda Rhimes or Nickelodeon but I will not allow you to raise my child.
I will choose to lead with intentionality.
I hope that my daughter would learn to appreciate having technology free dinners with her parents and siblings.
I hope that my daughter would look forward to engaging all of her senses through time spent in nature.
I hope that my daughter would like spending quality time with herself even if it means being bored.
I am learning to appreciate simplicity. To quiet my mind sometimes and just be. I read that is what sparks creativity and I am sure peace.
In this article, we touched on some history. Hopefully not in a way that is taught traditionally. Within walls and jaded from the truth. But in a way that helps to live in your truth.
You are a leader. We all are. How we harness our gifts and talents to use them for good is the difference. If we choose to give freely or withdraw selfishly.
Your team needs leaders.
Your family needs them too.
Our country certainly needs valiant leaders
We need you.