To diversify leadership, we need a new story of who we expect our leaders to be

29 July, 2021

In politics, business and beyond, the title of “leader” is bestowed upon individuals almost exclusively based upon measures of success and accomplishment like social status, wealth and follower counts – metrics Dave Ursillo describes as hollow. We  see the implications of faulty leadership in all fields of politics, business and global health — not just nationally but worldwide. In this Forbes article, Ursillo says questions about what we define as “leadership”, and who we expect to become our leaders, now feel more relevant than ever.

What defines leadership? Ursillo argues we can’t have a conversation about whether a definition of leadership which is based on wealth, status, acclaim and followers is broken, without first having a conversation about the power structures, policies and stories that enable, protect and preserve that ultra-privileged minority as our expectant leaders.

Every definition and expectation of something like leadership is, at its essence, a story. A story is an otherwise random assortment of facts, details and circumstances that we instinctively (sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously) string together into meaning, significance and order. The human brain is a story-making machine in that way. But we don’t recite stories based upon pure, objective facts but rather highly subjective interpretations of them. The untold story behind the story that our society tells us is one in which whiteness, maleness, straightness, cisgenderedness and Christianness are requisites of what it means to be a leader. 

If this story doesn’t change, says Ursillo, we’ll remain complicit in furthering long-entrenched prejudices that have reserved leadership roles in the Western world for the few, not the many, for hundreds of years. So how do we redefine what a leader is, and should be?

Forbes, Dave Ursillo, Jr., July 26, 2021. Read the full article here.

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Photo by Bhushan Sadani on Unsplash