Week 5: New Leadership for Now and 2050

Read the Chapter 3 ExcerptReal change requires leaders who are deeply connected to the lives of those they serve.

But, too often, the stellar work of grassroots leaders in communities of color is not lifted up to spark meaningful national change.

In this age of deep and complex policy challenges,  what makes a good leader? In the book, we write that a 21st Century leader should be “a problem solver, a lifelong learner, and an ethical example to others” with “a penchant for action and a commitment to reflection and collaboration.”

For Week 5 of the Race and America’s Future Virtual Book Club, we look at the direction of new leadership in America. Today’s starter questions:

Who is the best leader you know? What qualities make her or him a great leader?

How do we prepare the next generation of leaders to build and sustain a fully inclusive nation?

What lessons on leadership have you learned in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections?

We look forward to your comments in this week’s conversation.

– Stewart Kwoh

12 Responses to “Week 5: New Leadership for Now and 2050”

  1. avatar

    A lot of people say that the only training for leadership is leadership. Does that take someone who is willing to learn from their own mistakes and not ashamed of evoking them in order to guide others who may be down the same path? On an individual level it seems that every day is filled with small leadership opportunities that prepare you for the big few you’ll have. I hope when I do mess up, and I have, it’s on the smaller ones, and I hope those lessons prepare me for large ones.

    I think if we can expect that of ourselves, we can certainly expect it of our policy makers. But in turn, we must also acknowledge that they too have and will make mistakes. In US politics, we often permanently eject them. In international politics, you’ll find the person who erred ejecting themselves. While the first is sometimes justified and the second sometimes noble, how many good leaders have we lost in pretending that they learn differently than we do?

  2. avatar

    Leadership for social and economic justice must be based upon the wisdom and knowledge of communities. Often times we imagine that decision makers should be objective, or make decisions that impact the largest swath of people. But people are not objective – and without clear articulation and actions to end a social or economically unjust circumstance, it will not happen. The trickle-down never trickles down to the bottom. It must start there.

    In rough times, elected leaders must make difficult decisions as to whether they will do what will create change for the most disenfranchised or that which will maintain their power. And that is unusual.

  3. avatar

    This is such a timely discussion with the election approaching next week. The Democrats' monumental meltdown is perfect evidence of why we need new leaders. The old guard just isn't cutting it and we haven't cultivated a new generation of people to take us forward. Perhaps termlimits would help encourage this process but I don't think it's a meaningful, longterm sollution. To get new leaders and new voices into the fold, we need serious campaign finance reform and election day to become a holiday so everyone can truly participate. These changes would revolutionize how business is done in Washington.

  4. avatar

    In social justice work there has always been tension between the "old guard" and the "new guard." The modern Civil Rights Movement and the development of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is a key example. What we see today is not much different. Given shifts in technology and systems of oppression, new leaders still have much to learn from more seasoned leaders. As a young leader I have mentors who see the value in inter-generational leadership. However I think that's largely due to the women who mentored them. In order to prepare the next generation of leadership, current leaders must recognize the change in times but also share best practices and failures. Doing this not only teaches new leaders tried and true skills but also teaches us what may not work.

    • avatar

      I totally agree with you and your assessment. In many communities especially those that are challenged economically and happen to be predominantly African-American there tends to be a state of arrested development. We don’t nor have we developed young leadership to take the reigns in many of those communities. While people outside of our communities send their best and their brightest we continue to send our tried and our true. Therefore, limiting our ability to have dialog that is reflective of our current predicament. Until we are prepared to address young people as whole people with insight and intellect that is reflective of where we are as a society as a whole then we are going to continue to be slow on the draw and reactive instead of proactive.

  5. avatar

    The authors' call for community leaders to develop an intersectional lens through which to view issues of racial
    inequality was an interesting point in this chapter. I am glad that social justice organizations like APALC are
    working to change attitudes around same-sex marriage and other issues in the API LGBT community. That is very important work that recognizes the right of all APIs to be recognized as full-fledged members of the wider community.

    This kind of work, however, highlights in the API community a growing divide not between an "Old" and "New" Guard of leadership, but between the foreign and native born community members. The former framework is more accurately describes the generational divide between "Old Guard" African American leadership who came of age during the Civil Rights movement, and the "Post-Racial" generation of African American leaders that champion a universal policy agenda rather than an agenda that speaks specfically to the African American community. Barack Obama is a perfect example of this new generation of African American leadership.

    But I am not sure if I see the same dynamic going on in the API community. In this community it seems that efforts to undertake intersectional community work highlight the divide between the native and foreign born population. Same-sex marriage, to take one example, is a highly unpopular issue among the majority of
    foreign-born immigrants. How do today's leaders bridge that divide?

    Of course, this is not a new issue. This is an issue that has plagued API activists since the inception of Yellow Power…

  6. avatar

    Before people in America can be lead anywhere, we need to take stock of our personal and collective values. What is it that we value? We say that we value tolerance, equal opportunity, fairness, honesty, the separation of church and state. The run up to the 2010 election and its likely outcome calls into question every single one of these so-called American values. The recent political landscape has indeed exposed the real character and real values of America. Many of those who are running for public office in 2010 are not leaders, they are poll followers. They are following popular sentiments and it appears they will be rewarded for espousing messages of bigotry, exclusion, inequity, fear and divisiveness. If those are the people who are attracting political funding and votes, it is clear that politics is not the realm of leadership or the answer.

  7. avatar

    We live in a time fertile with ignorant, gullible fools – and we’ve developed an elaborate and lucrative media machine for feeding their delusions. Forget the power of the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court. America is governed through the media.

    News has become "infotainment, " a highly marketable commodity. Controversy sell. So leaders are besieged with faux crises every news cycle. With the media splintered into hundreds of specialized markets serving a myriad of political agendas, every decision a leader makes is questioned, argued and ridiculed. In this climate, true leadership is impossible.

    The words of Gandhi are ever more true today. Each of us must be the change we want to see in the world.

  8. avatar

    Who are the leaders? President Obama last night on the Daily Show pointed out Rep. Tom Pierello (Charlottesville VA) and other members of Congress who took votes they knew wouldn't be politically popular (e.g. health care) but did it because it was the right thing to do. That's leadership, it may even cost them their jobs on Nov 2, I hope not.

    And I just have to lift up the many young and young-er women who are founding Executive Directors building new organizations to help stoke the winds of change — Maya Wiley at Center for Social Inclusion, Maria Teresa Kumar at Voto Latino, many more who work day and night as unsung heros. PS Look for Maria Teresa on MSNBC election night coverage. This is our future, and it looks bright.

  9. avatar

    There are several leaders that come to mind when speaking of leadership and what this nation has been able to overcome and accomplish to make for a better society for all. The first that comes to mind are leaders who are directly in tune with the communities that lack a voice to represent them and those who speak up for them. I think of Al Sharpton for speaking up for individuals in these communities that have no voice or representation or recourse to any injustices that have been done to them or their community and their living conditions. I think of Angela Davis who spoke up for, and nearly lost her life, speaking up for minorities who were under represented in government, who had inadequate education, whose living conditions clearly showed inadequate living standards when it came to housing. I also would like to add that if it weren't for people like the Black Panthers, Huey Newton, and other minority groups who spoke out during the 60's and 70's I don't believe that we would have ever heard of racial profiling or other injustices during that period in history. These were and are leaders that are needed to better understand what is going on in communities that are virtually forgotten if no one is there to speak out, regardless of the consequences. I believe leaders speak out against injustices. They are courageous and they want to make their community and other communities better. They address issues that are relevant to uplifting the majority, such as, housing, education, racial profiling, police brutality, etc. They take a stance and they don't back down.
    They make sure that injustices are examined and addressed, not only by a nation, but by the world. However, I don't want to leave out President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. They are both great examples of what qualities leaders should possess . I applaud him for being an example of how men should treat women. He adores his daughters and his wife, but I am so proud that he looks after his mother-in-law by having her live in the White House with them, I think that is admirable. How many young men in his position would have done that for their mother-in-law? Family is so very important.
    The next generation of leaders will have to know what is going on in their community and communities throughout this society. They will have to be well educated and willing to speak out against any injustices that are found. They will have to be great listeners and great problem solvers. They will have to be sensitive to the people and their needs. They will have to know when to compromise and know when to hold steadfast in the face of opposition; if they know that an injustice is being perpetrated, they should right it.. Education, jobs and housing are key issues.
    Well, one lesson learned about leadership in this election is that you have to be persistent, and that every vote counts. Getting involved is important. There is no place for apathy.

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