Based on the leadership opportunities that abound, the ubiquity of LGBTQ+ culture across the world and the instructive value that the culture has, my goal is to help facilitate a greater and deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ culture and spawn new thinking about transformational leadership.
Consequently, a greater appreciation of Queer culture could reduce discrimination against LGBTQ+ people since a lack of cultural understanding about the cultural values of another group can lead to intercultural bias. By some measures in the United States, queerness and LGBTQ+ rights are steadily becoming more accepted. For example, according to a Gallup survey, acceptance of same-sex relationships is at an all-time high at 70 percent. However, there are still significant gaps in providing the Queer community full protection under the law.
Transformational Leadership Explained
Transformational leadership describes a type of leader who strives to create an environment in which people leverage their talents on behalf of the greater good. It requires fearlessness, empathy, resourcefulness, resilience and inclusiveness.
Acceptance of a cultural group does not equate with understanding their cultural sensibilities, and a more robust and honest accounting of LGBTQ+ culture could transform how society looks at LGBTQ+ people, and in turn, how society treats the population. If we want to transform the world, the opportunity rests in changing not only how we regard LGBTQ+ people, but how we lead, support and nurture all people at every position and at all levels within society.
Fortunately for us, LGBTQ+ leadership is available to us in this critical moment, and who could better understand this world — its frailties or complexities, its imperfections and its deepest yearnings — than those who operate at the edge of society? From its struggle and sacrifice, the LGBTQ+ community presents to society a precious love offering: Wisdom from the margins and beauty from the shadowy places within.
What Is a Transformational Leader?
As it stands, the world related to transformational leadership appears to be vague and tepid. A transformational leader is a person who recognizes their power and wields their power in an adaptive way to inspire and liberate others. Today’s professionals and leaders want to be “transformational,” but they don’t know exactly what that means, or how to be transformational, or from where to get their guidance. Leaders are tired of lectures and articles that skim the surface on leadership development but fail to deliver any real examples or practical solutions.
More importantly, leaders are overwhelmed because with all of the competing demands in the day, they seldom have time to think about transformational leadership when their first goal is to survive in a daily “work grind” that chews people up and spits them out indiscriminately.
Ironically, global leaders socialize, live and work among LGBTQ+ people every day (and many are part of the LGBTQ+ community) and never realized that the answers to their leadership dilemmas exist right before them: Within the LGBTQ+ community, a socially visible but largely misunderstood community that presumably inhabits almost every corner of the world. Much like the Queer-oriented, Indigenous “Two Spirit” people who have served as spiritual advisors in many First Nation communities across North America, LGBTQ+ people can serve as humanistic guides for the world and usher in a new era of leadership.
How LGBTQ+ Culture Can Shape Transformational Leadership Practices
The issues that LGBTQ+ people face are a microcosm of the issues that leaders face daily, and the impact and influence of LGBTQ+ people extends globally. If leaders study and learn from the LGBTQ+ cultural example, they will become “F.I.R.E. starters,” which stands for fearless or fabulous, inclusive or insightful, resourceful or resilient and empathetic or equity-minded people who create an energetic “blaze” that can light up the world and exhibit a model of leadership that can jumpstart their own journey to greater self-realization and create environments where people leverage their talents on behalf of the greater good.
Although LGBTQ+ people are the protagonists or subject matter experts in this leadership development book, that does not mean that the lessons the community shares (metaphorically speaking) are any less significant or that the collective wisdom demonstrated is any less credible. In other words, LGBTQ+ positionality within the social hierarchy should not give this conversation less sway. In fact, given the marginalization and disenfranchisement that LGBTQ+ people continue to face (particularly transgender youth and transgender women of color), the leadership lessons imparted within bear more substance and carry even more authority. The LGBTQ+ leadership principles apportioned herein have saved people from discrimination, bias, trauma, social alienation, serious injury, and yes — death.
These leadership principles may have been invoked by your friends, neighbors, loved ones, or even yourself. If those principles can protect LGBTQ+ people, who are mired in animus and repression worldwide, in some small measure, then they can certainly help you be a better mentor, manage a project, make better decisions, or communicate with your peers more effectively.
Learning from the LGBTQ+ community is not a risk if you value your community, career or enterprise. And based on the miraculous things our community has done and the high-minded goals I’m sure you want to achieve, you (and we) can’t really afford to not heed the cultural wisdom and leadership advice of LGBTQ+ people.
If we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to rethink stewardship and our role within it, leadership and leadership transformation will continue to flounder as we struggle to overcome the problems of the 21st century. Our workplaces will lack connection, empathy and innovation, and our communities will continue to be polarized. Leaders will become more disillusioned and transformational leadership will continue to exist as a buzzword instead of as a generative word that inspires feeling, reflection and tangible action.
If leaders study the LGBTQ+ community and learn from its wisdom, they can obtain practical, time-tested and thoughtful strategies that have been forged by the community since time immemorial. To possess greater global wisdom, you don’t have to be Queer, just Queer-minded: Open to new possibilities and poised to begin an adventure of growth and exploration.
Leaders will benefit from the gritty and resilient social acumen that LGBTQ+ people have developed at the margins of society to support their own survival and livelihood. They will be able to transform themselves, their families, their communities, their organizations, and in turn, the globe. They will not only realize their potential, but remember their gifts, talents and purpose for the world. They will find new ways of thinking, being, acting and engaging that will move us from our collective social malaise to a place of greater connectivity, harmony and balance. They can become the leaders we have always needed, and the leaders our world has called for.
Excerpted from the book The Souls of Queer Folk: How Understanding LGBTQ+ Culture Can Transform Your Leadership Practice. Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown. Published by Publish Your Purpose.