Six (Nonpartisan) Leadership Lessons from the 2022 Elections
Issue 210 — November 14, 2022
I believe so strongly that #votingisleadership that I created a hashtag for it. Civic engagement is in my view a critical part of leadership. We are all shaped by our communities and so must be part of shaping them.
Politics, as political scientist Walter Truett Anderson defined it, is the clash of uncertainties from which social realities are constructed.
Goodness knows that several big uncertainties in the cultural zeitgeist are clashing.
I don’t know about you but as I write this on November 14, 2022, I am still on pins and needles waiting for the final outcomes of the U. S. elections, especially in Arizona where I vote and key races hang in the balance. Most notably the governor’s race between Secretary of State, Democrat Katie Hobbs and Trump-endorsed former television newscaster Kari Lake — just called for Hobbs late today, six days after election day — made me think about the many lessons for leaders in the current landscape.
- Don’t run away from controversy. Embrace it. Ride into the wave of its energy. Think of it like a tidal wave. It could wash over and drown you. Or you can use the energy to propel you forward to your intentions. It gives you a platform because people are paying attention. The best example is the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing legislatures to outlaw abortion. There is a Chinese proverb, when sleeping women wake, mountains move. Controversy awakens sleeping people and nudges them clarify their values. That in turn can move people in to action.
2. The solution to a problem changes the problem. The invention of the automobile enables humans to travel farther faster, but also brought pollution and emissions that contribute to global warming. The electric car promises to help solve that problem, but now Tesla has made Elon Musk so wealthy that he has moved out of his lane of genius and might cause Twitter’s demise. The coronavirus pandemic created massive business disruptions, yet spawned massive innovation in the digital world and in how business is transacted globally. If we play our cards right, we will make big systemic changes that bring more equity and opportunity and to women and people of color because businesses need the talent.
3. After the shakeup, we need to remember the adage, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.” — Socrates. That one speaks for itself.
4. Always be the one or the organization setting the agenda, not merely reacting. Define your terms first before someone else defines you. Leaders create the narrative within which others will see themselves and operate. Therefore it’s urgent to do this thoughtfully and intentionally because that narrative will determine the course of your organization.
5. Pay attention to the value of diversity. It brings fresh perspectives, innovation, and greater value to the bottom line. Check your biases and if you don’t know them or think you are totally unbiased, take the Harvard Implicit Bias test. Read chapters on DEI and corporate responsibilities in my book Intentioning to better understand the intersection of gender and racial bias.
6. An election is just one moment in time. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” But even then, it’s not really over. It merely is a snapshot in time of where the people and the cultural zeitgeist are. If we want to achieve true racial and gender equality, now what’s the agenda to operationalize these priorities? And are we willing to do the work that will require?
The midterm elections are mostly behind us, but Take The Lead’s work will not be over until every woman has full equality in pay, power, and leadership positions. Will you join in and be a leader in this essential cause? (Spoiler alert: look for an exciting peer-to-peer campaign coming for Giving Tuesday.)
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of five books, most recently Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) Good. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.