Leadership, Mindset, Pauli Murray, Political Leadership

Pauli Murray

I just wanted to share something that I think is amazing on the first week of Black History Month. We all know the contributions of legends like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King but I love to learn about less known people who have had an impact in the struggle for equality. One person who I read about last year was Dr. Pauli Murray. Her life was an inspiration to me. At many turns in her life she failed but in the end her work ended up inspiring some of the great legal minds of our time and was used to argue and win cases that struck decisive blows to racial, gender, and sexual discrimination.

My favorite quote from her: “In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated. And what I very often say is that I’ve lived to see my lost causes found.”
Pauli Murray

My favorite quote about her: “Leaders aren’t just the few  famous people who  dominate the news or find their place in history books. They don’t always represent the majority…..They aren’t always popular…..They don’t always win and they aren’t always remembered. Leaders like Pauli Murray brave and obscure men and women . Who act on their convictions even though they fail time and time again sometimes change the course of history.”

Some Highlights of her career:

Ø  Ruth Bader Ginsburg credits Murray’s work as the inspiration for her 1971 brief in Reed v. Reed, which ruled that women could not be excluded as administrators of personal estates based on their gender. The Supreme Court case marked the first time that the Equal Protection Clause was applied to sex discrimination, and has served as precedent for many arguments in the decades since then. Ginsburg found Murray’s prior arguments so important to her own that she elected to put Murray down as an honorary co-author on the milestone brief.

Ø  She was arrested in 1940 for refusing to move to the back of a bus, protesting a Virginia law requiring segregation on public transportation — 15 years before Rosa Parks’ similar protest sparked a bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.

Ø  In 1944, Murray graduated at the top of her class from the Howard University School of Law, where she encountered gender discrimination from faculty and fellow students. It was there that she coined the term “Jane Crow” to refer to sex discrimination — the sister of Jim Crow.

Ø  Mademoiselle magazine named her “Woman of the Year” in 1947.

Ø  The NAACP, then led by Thurgood Marshall, used arguments from a law school seminar paper by Murray as part of the organization’s legal strategy in Brown v. Board of Education. He later called her book States’ Laws on Race and Color “the Bible for civil rights lawyers.”

Ø  She was appointed to President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Ø  She co-founded the National Organization for Women in 1966.

Ø  She was the first African-American woman to be ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1977.

Ø  In 2012 she was welcomed into Episcopal sainthood, more than 25 years after her death.

Learn more about Dr. Pauli Murray by checking out Cooper’s article here.

Cory Booker, Leadership, Mindset, Political Leadership, Reading, self-awareness

Cynicism is the Refuge for Cowards

The time was 9:58 pm on July 25, 2016. Senator Cory Booker took the stage to deliver a speech to the Democratic National Convention crowd. His speech would be highly reviewed and would have Washington buzzing about the potential of a future President. He had many memorable lines but something he said that night struck a particular chord with me. It wouldn’t get much attention but the words were as powerful and as true as anything ever spoken.

“My fellow Americans, we cannot fall into complacency or indifference about this election, because still the only thing necessary for evil to be triumphant is for good people to do nothing. My fellow Americans, we cannot be seduced into cynicism about our politics, because cynicism is a refuge for cowards and this nation is and must always be the home of the brave. We are the United States of America. We will not falter or fail. We will not retreat or surrender – we will not surrender our values, we will not surrender our ideals, we will not surrender the moral high ground.”

Cynicism is defined as “an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest” or “an inclination to question whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile.” We live in a culture consumed with cynicism. Go to happy hour near any office park. Take a look at your own Facebook posts from the last year and it might surprise you. You might hear these comments at work or school:

“It doesn’t matter anyway”

“Why talk to him, he is just going to do what he wants to do anyway.”

“Why do I need a piece of paper (degree) to say I can do a job?”

“I am going to do all this stuff and no one is going to even look at it.”

“Leadership Development is all a bunch of pie in the sky bullshit.”

“My vote doesn’t matter.”

The words Cory Booker spoke that night were profound because we are all victims and purveyors of cynicism. We have all heard something like this in our lives and said to ourselves “Yeah, they are probably right.” We don’t realize how much cynicism has an impact on our daily lives. The reason we don’t start writing that novel is because the cynic in us says “No one will ever read it.” or we think “What the point?” We roll our eyes at our companies core values/mission statement because our inner cynic says “Yeah right” or “I have heard this before.” We never truly hear when people we care about promise they will do better because our inner cynic tells us it will just happen again. We don’t vote because our cynic in us tells us that our vote doesn’t count and politicians will just do what the person with more money tells them to do. We think self-improvement just way for people to sell us books, sell us services and get our money. We think terms like self-awareness and growth mindset are worthless leadership jargon that is just something people say to sound smart. (I wonder at this point if I am being cynical about the level of cynicism in the world)

I am guilty of this too. I used to be extremely cynical. The reason I know what cynics say and feel is because I said or agreed with all of the statements I used as an example. I started college after my military service. This was ten years after I graduated high school because I believed it was just a piece of paper. It took me years to pick up my first business book because I believed it was all B.S. It took me years to even start writing this blog because I thought “Who cares what I think?” and “No one will ever read it.” I thought getting involved in politics was useless because I wasn’t a rich lawyer. In short I was a coward. Cynicism was a refuge for me. It gave me an easy way out. It let me off the hook. It alleviated me from having to do the hard work of writing 500 words a day…from going to class after class and getting a college education….from knocking on 1000 doors to only get 100 votes. It takes hard work to get past cynicism and start doing anything that you are not guaranteed success. Getting past cynicism is only the first step but an all too important one. Then comes the hard work of belief and action.

What I am asking you to do today is not to remove all cynicism from your life. This would make you gullible to actual scams and dishonest folks. In my business I still wonder who the real leaders are and who the “fakes” are. It’s important to have a healthy skepticism of people and things. Cynicism is when it goes too far. I have to actively stop myself of going into that mindset when I hear a new idea that doesn’t fit within my worldview. I work to make sure these thoughts don’t stop me from fostering relationships or working towards a goal. What I am asking for you to do is believe in something. If you don’t believe in your company’s core values can you believe and use one core value? Can you suggest your own core values or add onto them when talking to your team? If you believe your vote doesn’t count, can you donate to an organization that fights for a cause you believe in? You will only get so far by telling people what you don’t believe in.

If you are cynical about everything then you will achieve very little in life. The cynic is always apprehensive….always suspicious. They often see everything that can go wrong and look for the negatives. They question other people’s motives and character. This can lead to a very lonely and unfulfilling existence. The data is overwhelming. Positive and un-cynical human beings have more friends, have longer lasting friendships, go on more dates, are more productive and make more money. They are just happier people.

The wall of cynicism can never truly be destroyed but we can put some holes in it. Just like everything else it will take training and asking the right questions. Breaking down the walls of cynicism will not be easy but it is possible and will lead to a fulfilling and happier life. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Ask yourself these two questions: What do I believe in and why do I believe in this? Ask others you trust and love. Am I a cynical person? Becoming less cynical starts with you. By asking yourself and others these questions you can start your journey of insight.
  2. Read – Literally the more you know the less cynical you will be. Read about your beliefs. Read something that contradicts your beliefs. Read History about politicians like Thaddeus Stevens and John Lewis who fought injustice and equality their entire lives. Read History to know the context behind political decisions and what ordinary citizens have done to overthrow ruthless dictators. Read psychology and neuroscience to understand why humans behave and act the way that they do. Read about business leaders who follow and live their company’s core values and inspire their organizations to join them. If you do this it will be that much harder to cynical.
  3. Connect- Human beings are social creatures. We thrive when we connect to others and we deteriorate when we separate ourselves from human beings. Connecting with human beings shows you that the world is full of amazing individuals and over time that will make you less cynical. Most importantly, connecting is good for your health. Recent studies have shown that loneliness in more detrimental to your health that cigarettes and poor diet. We have groups for anything and everything. Book clubs, Cat lovers, Coffee fans, support groups, craft beer snobs, heavy metal listening the list goes on and on. You are not alone.
Leadership, Political Leadership

The Vanishing American Leader

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) has been touring the country lately and talking about his book “The Vanishing American Adult.” I haven’t read it yet ( I plan to this year) but I have heard him talk about this book and it has some very interesting concepts. Basically the theme of the book is he believes Americans have lost their core of personal integrity and discipline. The country has many serious and quite complex challenges ahead and to even begin solving them he states—people must recover their sense of virtue. The survival of the nation depends on this. I know it’s weird to start your first blog post on a book you haven’t read but the concept is too important to not write about. The idea for this post comes from that concept.

In his many interviews Sasse believes that our children will not be prepared for the world they will inherit. I don’t know if that says more about the generations of parents and grandparents that raised them but I think that is for another post. The Vanishing American Adult is something we should worry about and try to remedy. What we should be more concerned with and work harder to remedy is the Vanishing American Leader.

American Leadership everywhere is in crisis. The state of American political leadership is a tragedy. This did not start with the man in the White House or the current administration. Leaders in Washington have been serving the interests of the rich and powerful long before Trump. Political polarization may have gotten worse over the years but this has been a 30 year journey (some would argue longer).  Business Leadership from the executive boardroom to middle management is inconsistent at best.  Unprepared and disengaged managers make the work place culture ineffective and stressful. Output and “bottom line” focused executives see human beings as replaceable assets instead of the key to their success.  Our community organizations and movements are increasingly polarizing with varying expiration dates.  With the leadership in these three vital institutions failing us it will be that much more difficult for us to reach our full potential as a society.

Is all lost? I don’t believe so.

First we must admit a pair glaring truths to ourselves. We have to admit that we need leadership. That is first. Leadership is important at all levels. Stable and productive families have parental leadership. They have a parent/parents who actively and lovingly develop and discipline their kids.  High performing schools have administrative leadership. They have administrators who put the best systems in place for students to excel and achieve. I could go on but you see the pattern. Successful tribes and organizations need leadership. Families, Schools, Churches, Businesses, Governments all need this.

Second, leadership can come from anywhere and from anyone. Leaders are not born …they are made. Trust and faith in a leader is not given it is earned. All the great leaders, across all of human history were not given this title. George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. and even Jesus had to prove themselves and earned the trust of followers. The title of manager does not mean that a person is a leader. The title of Vice-President does not mean that people will follow. Leaders are given this title and distinction by the people who follow them. It is those same people who can take it away. A cashier at McDonald’s may have more people who call her a leader than a Director at a Fortune 500 company.

This is where I will end this first post because this last point needs to be explored more. The first point is that human beings need strong leadership and leadership is important. We will continue to make this point. The last point is the message and purpose of this blog. It starts with you. We have to be the change we want to see in the world. We can look to Washington and see porous leadership but it should not stop us from educating ourselves and getting involved in our political process. We can look at our managers and executives and be uninspired but it should not stop us from mastering our craft, continuously learning new skills, and executing so efficiently that you cant be ignored. Finally, If your parents and family aren’t a good example then see them as a horrible warning. Educate yourself, don’t hesitate to get help (you can email me) and take yourself out of any toxic situation. The message is clear: never give up. Where there is life there is hope.

This blog will aim to help you become that change. We will post resources, interviews, tips, connections, and much more to help you become that change. We will explore and discuss leadership from all walks off life. We will try to cover it all and help in any way we can. Lets build the next generation of leaders. The right ones.

Hopefully this first post wasn’t too cheesy. Hopefully you will join us for this journey. Thank you for reading.