What Your Privilege Has To Do With Your Leadership

Unsure about what privilege means in the context of social justice? Click here to get in the loop before reading the rest of this blog. I promise, it's worth it.

Many people get defensive at the first interaction with the idea of privilege (I did). That's to be expected. Coming to terms with the fact that you are a part of a group of people that have been given an unearned set of benefits because of certain parts of your identity – it can be tough. 

It's easy to stay oblivious.

It's easy to deny it – to say everything you've accomplished, you've earned. It's easy to say it's not your fault. It's easy to feel guilty. It's easy to feel ashamed. It's easy to feel helpless. It's easy to walk around apologetic towards the groups of people who don't have your privilege. This is not what the world needs.

In her book, A Burst of Light: Essays, Audre Lorde wrote:  

“To acknowledge privilege is the first step in making it available for wider use. Each of us is blessed in some particular way, whether we recognize our blessings or not. And each one of us, somewhere in our lives, must clear a space within that blessing where she can call upon whatever resources are available to her in the name of something that must be done.”
— Audre Lorde

Our world needs the bringing awareness to, the questioning, the sharing of our individual and collective privilege. There is so much work to be done in our world and you have been blessed with the resources to help make change happen.

Sharing is caring, right?

Though I am black and woman and queer and larger than a size 8 in a world where these identities are often devalued, I am also deeply privileged. I am able-bodied, college-educated, cis-gendered and a United States citizen amongst other things. I am constantly forgetting, questioning, resisting, learning and unlearning my privilege.

This is my work. This is your work, as well.

Your presence, words and actions have great influence on the people and the systems that you interact with every day. This is where your capacity to lead lies. As a leader, this is your responsibility: to be conscious and aware of how you're influencing your life and the lives of those around you. To know yourself, to know your power and to use it in service of all people.

Here are a few ways to put this into motion:

  1. Call out/call in the people who are perpetuating values and systems that don't serve the whole.
  2. Move out of a binary mindset (positive/negative, man/woman, leader/follower etc) + step into the complexity of being human.
  3. As you learn and unlearn, educate your fellow privileged folk so that the under-privileged and marginalized groups don't have to.
  4. When making decisions that affect others, ask: "who does this benefit and who does this leave behind?"
  5. Question your comfort with the status-quo. 
  6. Take inventory of your beliefs (about yourself, specific social groups and how the world works) and bring awareness to how they show up in your life.
  7. Support the mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of all people in your space, including yourself.
  8. Be willing to listen, reflect and shift when you're the one who gets called out/called in.  

Have any other ideas on how you can share your blessings? Let me know in the comments below.