LGBTQ+ community leaders have a unique and challenging job. They are trusted with the responsibilities of running parts of an organization, meeting ever-increasing deadlines, creating and developing teams, and working wholeheartedly with a community whose needs are always expanding and changing. Often, community leaders play the vital and important role of being the primary pipeline of communication between the organization and the community.
Community leadership does not require a fancy title, and it is not telling others what to do. Community leadership is inspiring others to do what needs to be done. A great community leader not only has the motivation to affect positive change in the community, but they also want to be at the forefront of that transformation. They inherently possess the dedication and drive that is a paramount necessity in being an effective leader. They are willing to put in the time and effort towards service, selflessly providing their time and effort for the greater good.
The point here is; a title does not make you a leader. Being able to motivate and inspire others; do.
Genuine leaders take a stand and motivate others to join them in a noble and urgent purpose.
One such LGBTQ leader was Bayard Rustin, an LGBTQ and civil rights activist best known for being a key adviser to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin promoted nonviolent resistance and organized the 1963 March on Washington. Another was Marsha P. Johnson, an outspoken transgender rights activist, and she is reported to be one of the central figures of the historic Stonewall Riots of 1969. A very different out-of-the-box leader was the late Willie Ninja, a dancer, choreographer, and the "Grandfather of Vogue," the dance style that he helped propel to the national stage. Mr. Ninja and other greats like him pioneered and created the "House Structures" to support an alarming rate of LGBTQ+ homelessness in the 70-80s, affecting mainly Black and Latino LGBTQ adolescents.
Long story short, Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities, and so how we lead must be guided to encourage all to walk in their actual leadership capacity.
Leaders act with integrity, and in doing so, they establish trust. They genuinely value their people, and in doing so, they create loyalty. Their in the business of assisting people in realizing THEIR full potential, and in doing so, they inspire excellence.
As I go on 21 incredible years working with the LGBTQ+ community, here are my “3 Effective Ways Community LGBTQ+ Leaders, Lead" that have helped me successfully lead.
Golden Rule 1: Support LGBTQ+ members from the community and get out of the way!
No one knows how to serve their community more than members of that community. If you are a team lead, manager, or director, provide community members with a clear vision and the tools and support they need to get the job done. Create a safe space by allowing them to represent their community in their decision making and allow them to truly exemplify safety, respect, effectiveness, empathy, and passion. Support without imposing your title and years of experience, this is a giant motivation killer.
Golden Rule 2: Be an Inspirational Role Model
LGBTQ+ Leadership is neither for the timid nor for the arrogant. Confidence is often resented or misinterpreted for arrogance. People who lack self-confidence often feel intimidated by a true leader. This should never hold you back or serve as a barrier to developing other LGBTQ+ Leaders. If you have honesty, integrity and deal with everyone fairly, then others will see that. Be willing to listen, not just to hear criticism but to compromise. Remember, a society without an inspirational role model is a community without a Leader.
Golden Rule 3: Communicating Your Vision
Communicating your vision is more than just the words you say or the emails you write. Remember, actions speak louder than words. Take every opportunity to express your idea in words and deeds. One of the best ways to articulate a vision and create buy-in is to make sure it's NOT YOUR VISION ALONE but a VISION built on the people's voices and community ideas and input.
Make sure the vision you have for the community is a vision the community is inspired by and supports.
Some questions to ask yourself - Are you the LGBTQ expert or have a lived experience? Do I represent the LGBTQ+ community at the table? Do I live in the community I wish to impact? Does my experience relate to the communities? Am I invested in the community? If you do not have one, yes, perhaps allow someone else to take the lead.
Above all, lead by example & remember NOTHING FOR US WITHOUT US !