Yesterday was my first call with the delightful tribe of people who signed up for the learning circle of How to Lead with your Paint Clothes on. What a great call it was! My only complaint is that it was much too short. AND that I didn’t get to watch people’s faces when they had their a-ha moments.

At the end of the call, when I asked the participants what nugget of learning they would take with them into the week and might find themselves journaling about a few days later, more than one of them shared that it was our conversation about the leadership of Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks is one of my greatest models for leadership.

As I mentioned in my blurry vision post, I used to hold unrealistic models in front of me of what leadership and vision should be. Even in my teaching, I’d get people to deconstruct the leadership of people like Martin Luther King Jr. in order to learn what visionary leadership is all about.

But not any more. Only a handful of people will attain the level of leadership of MLK (or Oprah, for that matter), so I don’t suggest you try to model yourself after him. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll fail.

Instead, model your leadership after Rosa Parks.

Rosa was a seamstress. She probably never used the word leader to define herself in her whole life. She was just a seamstress… and yet, she had a passion for justice. She had a vision for change. She knew that it was time for the world.

And so she took her seat on the bus. And she refused to get up when the bus driver told her to give it up for a white man. That action may seem insignificant, and yet it changed the world.

You don’t have to have a grand audience. You don’t have to have a hundred people looking to you for leadership. You just have to take your seat on the bus.

Taking your seat on the bus might mean that you clean up your neighbourhood. It might mean that you provide a safe space for marginalized people. It might mean that you give your whole heart to teaching yoga. It might mean that you model integrity and justice to your kids. It might mean that you say no to the bullies on the committee you volunteer for.

Like the participants on the call yesterday, many of us feel uneasy about calling ourselves leaders because the word carries so much baggage and seems like an unattainable mark. That’s because we’re trying to model ourselves off the wrong kinds of leaders.

DON’T lead like Martin Luther King Jr.

Lead like Rosa Parks. Take your seat on the bus. And don’t get up when the bullies and conformists tell you to move.

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