I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a man in American culture, what it means to be a father figure, and what it means to be a role model. Last week, the President directly insulted LeBron James and Don Lemon’s intelligence, part of a pattern of attacks leveled at people who do not fit the mold of traditional masculine power in our country. This most recent incident makes me think about the dangerous downside of a culture where the nation’s highest office is held by such a damaging version of masculinity. Will we as a society continue to elevate male leaders whose sole purpose is to garner more power and money, through power, dominance, and aggression towards others, regardless of the cost to society? Or will be able to redefine and expand what it means to be a man, and a leader for that matter, to include more feminine and human attributes of empathy, care, and collaboration, whereby we work to bring people together and leave no one behind?
What I admire most about LeBron is that he recognizes the power of his platform – and is using it for immense good to ensure that a rising tide lifts all boats. He has proven time and time again, that masculinity and leadership should be about using your power to help others around you. Whether behaving in a way that we would want all of our children to emulate, or literally giving his resources to the next generation to lift them up, LeBron James is a man who is demonstrating a new version of leadership – and of masculinity. And I think each of us, though we may not have LeBron James’ platform, can follow his example in ways small and large in our own lives.
Because in a society that continues to value the traditional male leadership model of transactional, hierarchical leadership, we need to encourage each other to step up and create a new definition of inclusive and transformative leadership. So this week, I ask each of you to first reach out to a role model or mentor you’ve had in your life and celebrate them. Thank them for whatever it is they have done that had such an impact on you. And then, examine where in your life you have a platform or leadership opportunity to impact someone else’s life in a positive way.
Together, we can redefine what it means to be a “good leader” and separately “good men”, and stop conflating leadership with the worst stereotypes of toxic masculinity. Only if we do this can we create a generation of leaders that truly embody the compassion and empathy our society needs.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom & The Representation Project Team