Everybody wants a hero—heroic leadership has been all the rage for centuries—but truly, sometimes we really don’t need one. All we need is a 64 year old author/journalist/distance swimmer named Diana Nyad to fulfill her 35 year long dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage… emerging from the water after 50 hours to remind everybody, “It looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team [effort].”
Ever have a really interesting idea at work or in the world, share it, and notice that you don’t get much of a response? Either because people just don’t seem excited about it or say they don’t understand it? And then a dude, maybe someone you know or don’t know, maybe someone who came up with the same idea, or someone who is intentionally trying to support you, shares this same idea and everyone responds enthusiastically? Yeah, me too. Weird, right?!
“How many of you think you have to be seen by men before you can be seen?”
Nilofer Merchant asked this question at a fantastic conversation/salon I attended in New York earlier this year led by Merchant and Ellen McGirt. The topic was women, work, and visibility—and the concept of “onlyness”—our unique contribution as women and as individuals, in the workplace and in the world.
Given the state of the world and our institutions, what work (paid or unpaid) do we really want to be doing? As individuals and women leaders, what work are we uniquely well-suited to do? What contribution can we make and do we want to make? I’m reminded of a line from Margaret Wheatley, “The leaders we need are already here.”
Sometimes this question of when the world going to change for women feels so complex and daunting, all I have energy left to do is dream! And it’s a bit of a paradox because dreaming ultimately is what gives me energy to get back to activism. So here are a few ways I dream the world could, just might, if we can help it, change for women.
Do we want to focus on the problem of powerful women being so darn unlikeable? Or do we want to work toward a solution: gender balance in the workplace, our communities, and all of our major institutions, which will inevitably mean new visions of leadership?