Leadership should come with a smile

leadershipisIn the past, I’ve worked to detail what competencies and skills a leader inside the Mozilla community commonly has. For me, the majority of what is included in that framework could be seen as Leadership Competencies more broadly. What’s more, experiencing different kinds of leadership in the past years, both inside Mozilla and outside in the Greenpeace world, the Opensource.com community, communities in my personal life and so on, I’ve started to take note of qualities that make me value particular leader.

This morning, I spent three hours of my time facilitating a Greenpeace “Big Listening” session. Greenpeace has put together a team of people to go out and talk to Greenpeace staff, volunteers and alumni, as well as experts in various fields. They’re putting together public polls (running until the end of the month, I’ll share URLs ASAP) directed at under represented groups. These conversations, collectively called “Big Listening”, are designed to help people articulate what they believe the future of our planet should be, thereby helping this team establish the strategy, milestones, and priority geographies for Greenpeace over the next ten years.

stop • collaborate.and.listen
photo by donshall

It’s a huge undertaking, involving lots and lots of data. It’s a way to open the conversation of what Greenpeace should be doing in the world to create a “greener and more peaceful planet.”

I’m not sure if you noticed, but we, us humans, are living in challenging times. I don’t need to verify this statement, just look around. War, distrust, greed, hunger, destruction, devastation, [insert your global truth here].

There are less activists in the world than you think. Our conversation and actions here in social justice / education / technology activism / environmental activism world are a start, but it’s not enough. For the most part, people are used to living their lives. They don’t realize that tiny, tiny decisions multiplied a billion times is the way we create real change. If a billion people do any one thing…You can imagine, can’t you?

Back to those leadership qualities I wanted to mention – one of them, I think, is courage. A courageous act is something that depends on context. For those of us working in open source, our code contributions might not seem “courageous”, but Bassel’s surely were. In North America, it might not seem courageous to sign a petition, but what about in North Korea? Or your rural city where it’s only the minority who are signing? Liking a page on Facebook might not be “courage” to you, but in Syria? You see, “courage” isn’t just facing something dangerous, it’s also doing something difficult. And “difficult” is relative.

You could say, it’s more difficult to wash your spoon then to throw it away.

It’s more difficult to search through thrift store racks, then to order new clothes. It’s more difficult to remember to bring a canvas bag than grab a plastic one from the grocery store. We are billions of people on this planet. These choices matter. There are a thousand more that matter too.

Another leadership quality I was thinking about is positivity. I was reminded today at how positivity is contagious. If you smile, play, have fun, remind people that despite the problems in the world, we can be positive about some little thing, people perk up and pay attention. I always say that we have to model the behaviors we want to see in the world, so I try to turn on my own positivity, especially when I’m facilitating groups.

We all feel Imposter Syndrome from time to time, so let’s be honest about it. We don’t feel courageous all the time, so let’s be honest about it. We aren’t positive all the time, so let’s acknowledge that too. I think if we can start being authentic and honest towards each other, these meta leadership qualities come quite naturally.

Also, smile a little. You deserve to be where you are, so smile and help remind your peers that we’re all in this together.

Leadership should come with a smile

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