American Experiment: Caught in the Intersection

An active-duty friend of mine was fired recently. Despite being described as “hard-charging, high-flying, and mission oriented”, those in supervisory positions determined this particular leader did not have sufficient soft skills to continue to lead.

Apparently being held accountable to published standards was too much for those in subordinate positions, who deemed this leader assertive and ambitious.

Do I even have to identify this leader as a woman?

I’m sure it’s obvious; these traits are only considered negative when displayed by women. The mostly men in her chain of command have freely admitted to urging her to be softer, less strident, more soothing, seemingly oblivious to the extreme sexist, misogynistic, and anachronistic attitudes their comments reveal.

As someone who has frequently and favorably compared the military’s willingness to reward good leadership regardless of gender, to what I’ve experienced post retirement, I was taken aback.

But there’s more. This stellar officer, a frequent presenter at professional conferences, made an “I’m-working-like-a-slave” comment in a moment of stress that was heard by a subordinate who reacted uncomfortably. Apparently, this comment, coupled with concerns about her disposition, required her to be fired, disinvited from presenting at a conference she was scheduled to attend and the subject of a whisper campaign within her professional community.

Before you pronounce her guilty of racism, did I mention this leader is black? Is it necessary to mention the subordinate is a white male?

And without getting into the whole “can black people be racist” argument, I have questions…

What makes any comments uttered by black people about slavery racist? Even Kanye West’s controversial comments about race and slavery were primarily labeled ignorant and inaccurate versus racist.

Did the black men made aware of the incident acquiesce to defining the incident as racist because they believed it to be so or were they unwilling to push their white counterparts or subordinates to consider a more nuanced interpretation? Has this black woman been sacrificed on the altar of their ambition?

Doesn’t firing the black woman play into the reality of institutional racism? Isn’t the accusation of racism by a white man and subsequent firing by another white man exactly what constitutes institutional racism?

Black women often find ourselves at the perilous intersection of race and gender, victims of patriarchy, white fragility, expectations about what is feminine, perceptions that don’t recognize our femininity and stereotypes that mistake our strength for anger. In this intersection, some are disgraced, some are discarded and some die. Those who proudly serve this country are no exception. After a career spent working hard, sacrificing personally to achieve role model, rock star status, my friend has been discredited, dismissed and feels devastated.

I pray she recovers.

“There’s a huge double standard and a massive problem going on with weaponized outrage in this country. White men have found a way to destroy women and people of color with their mostly manufactured outrage at comments and actions that make them uncomfortable while being absolutely immune to and vaccinated against the outrage of others.” paraphrase of a Twitter comment by Eugene Gu, MD, a Surgeon-Scientist

#AmericanExperiment

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Faithful

There have been many words written to describe the characteristics of Alabama QB Jalen Hurts over the last year. Resilient. Patient. Humble. I’ve written a couple of times about his commitment. But after actually hearing Jalen share his OWN narrative about his journey since being replaced midway during the 2018 National Championship game, I think the word that best describes him is Faithful.

The faith to realize there is a Divine order to his life.
The faith to recognize the experience he’s having is the experience he needs.
The faith to rest in the present as his story unfolds in accordance with God’s unlimited vision for his life.

Voted Most Inspirational by his teammates AFTER losing his starting job, Jalen has never lost his faith.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34, MSG

Inhale Faith, Exhale Anxiety…
Inhale Focus, Exhale Worry…
Inhale Foundation, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe

#Faith
#JustBreathe

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Grateful for Greatness

I’ve been reflecting the last few days on a couple of weeks full of #BlackGirlMagic and feeling so grateful to have been in the presence of  amazing women, like…
Shanute Brewer, who is exposing her young VISIONaries to STEM subjects like coding;
Jamila Trimuel who is helping 9-18 year-old girls discover their purpose, passion and perserverance;
April Ervin, who just published her first book and is trying to help Superwomen save themselves;
Eva Kennedy, who is focused on helping women in transition find clarity;

Mox.E Women support the professional and personal development of women in leadership.

the women of Mox.E who empower women to live their purpose;
Dr. Yashika N. Tippett, the founding principal of Air Force Academy High School, who just brought the first flight training program to the Chicagoland area;
Tammera Holmes, the founder and CEO of AeroStar, who is creating bonafide pilots for an airline industry with a looming shortage of them;

So happy to see AeroStar Founder Tammera Holmes at the YWPL 40 Under 40 induction! Photo by Travon Prentis, TCP Photography.

Young Women Professionals League members, who are focused on developing siSTAR leaders holistically;
Aunt Oprah and FFL (Forever First Lady) Michelle Obama, who are showing the way;
my sister Vanessa Smith, who has successfully led her business for over 20 years
and my daughter, Renise Alexander, who is pursuing her passion for travel by any means necessary!

I am so grateful for your examples of excellence, persistence and resilience. You inspire hope…you inspire greatness.

#Gratitude
#Greatness

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My Leadership Team

I’m a lifelong learner who prefers reading as my primary source of information. I suspect the solitude of reading recharges me in a way I don’t receive from other media.

So I am grateful to be here in the time of leadership gurus like my some of my favs, John Maxwell, Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman and T.D. Jakes.

I am grateful that I can pull up over 40 English versions (plus audio!) of the Bible on my phone (thanks Pastor Craig for YouVersion)!

I’m grateful the Tao Te Ching has been interpreted by the late Wayne Dyer, that Marianne Williamson has shared her lessons from A Course in Miracles and that Iyanla VanZant has made lessons of her own life.

And when I’m not reading, I’m so grateful that a black woman created her OWN media empire which exposes me to thought leaders from a variety of perspectives.

I’m sopping up every drop of wisdom they have to offer, then offering what I’ve learned to anyone who wants it and thanking God for my “team” and my circle of influence!

Inhale Gratitude, Exhale Taking for Granted…
Inhale Wisdom, Exhale Withholding Knowledge…
Inhale Influence, Exhale Ignoring Needs…
Just Breathe

#Leadership
#JustBreathe

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Life Decisions

A friend of mine said she was mad at God when the choice she made didn’t work out the way she planned. And I started to question her… then I remembered the stupid thing I did when I didn’t pay attention to my inner knowing, the God voice whispering, the feeling in my gut.

I thought about the clear revelation I didn’t hear … the thing right in front of me that I didn’t see … the mistakes made more than once.

And I shut my mouth.

“People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does God always get blamed?” Proverbs 19:3 MSG

Inhale Discernment, Exhale Disregarding Your Knowing…
Inhale Action, Exhale Discounting Your Options…
Inhale Ownership, Exhale Diminishing Your Responsibility…
Just Breathe

#Leadership
#JustBreathe

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Reluctant Leader

My leadership experience began early in life; as the oldest of five and the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family, I was often “voluntold” to lead my siblings and/or cousins in some activity, an exercise usually like herding cats but nowhere near as smooth as that EDS commercial from a few years ago…the one where cowboys are herding cats…but I digress!

That early leadership experience showed me that, with no authority, I needed some other ways to influence my “team” to carry out our responsibilities. I needed to communicate with clarity. I needed to keep my emotions in check. I needed to be more compassionate sister.

I needed to be a better leader.

Inhale Leadership, Exhale Reluctance…
Inhale Responsibility, Exhale Irresponsibility…
Inhale Influence, Exhale Reticence…
Just Breathe

#Leadership
#JustBreathe

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Influence is Relational

Leadership is influence. But influence outside of relationship is almost impossible. So this mission-oriented, borderline introvert had to step out of my comfort zone to find the relationship approach that authentically worked for my personality and allowed me to connect with the folks I was privileged to lead.

That meant one-on-one, or small group interactions, which allowed me to be really engaged with each individual.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” ~ John Maxwell

Inhale Relationship, Exhale Isolation…
Inhale Influence, Exhale Intimidation…
Inhale Leadership, Exhale Incompetence…
Just Breathe

#Leadership
#JustBreathe

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Lead Yourself First

You are a leader… even if you’re just leading yourself. Leading yourself is the most important, most difficult leadership task. Leading yourself well means being who you say you are and doing what you say you will. It requires some self-awareness and includes being disciplined, being committed and being accountable to yourself and in alignment with your purpose.

Inhale Integrity, Exhale Irresponsibility…
Inhale Alignment, Exhale Abandonment…
Inhale Your Best You, Exhale A Lessor You…
Just Breathe

#Leadership
#JustBreathe

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Misinterpreted

People in leadership positions, whether earned or wanted … or not, are always communicating. Their words, their actions and reactions, their body language, their clothing…everything presented in public is seen and interpreted. So it’s imperative to be intentional about what is communicated.

Otherwise, positive or negative, people will hear (or see) what was communicated as what was meant.

“Be impeccable with your word.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

Inhale Intentionality, Exhale Duplicity…
Inhale Accuracy, Exhale Dishonesty…
Inhale Responsibility, Exhale Deception…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe

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In Charge

On the plane ride back from FL, where I witnessed a wife/mother/leader take command, I was able to watch (while flying…love technology!) another wife/mother/leader and G.O.A.T., Serena Williams, win her semi-final match at Wimbledon.

Despite all the regressive political language, racist actions by neighbors all over the U.S., and attempts by states to roll back hard fought gains, these women and others, on stages national and local, are showing what mature, calm, compassionate, grown-up leadership looks like.

And I am here for it.

Inhale Calm, Exhale Impetuous…
Inhale Mature, Exhale Childish…
Inhale Compassionate, Exhale Uncaring…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe

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