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Five Great Leaders in the Toughest Year on Record

Who do we love and why - spotlighting great leaders of these times

by Lauren Burton and Catherine Stagg-Macey

This year is proving to be quite some year and certainly nothing we planned for. As a current meme offers, it’s what happens when you mix up your cards from your tarot deck and Cards against Humanity.

That said, there has been some incredible examples of great leadership during COVID-19, the emerging economic crisis and the civil rights movement. From the people on the front line working tirelessly to save lives, neighbours buying groceries for shielding neighbours, communities creating food banks, young people creating movements with peaceful protests and specialists making global impacts in the public eye where they weren’t before.

At Lea_p, we’ve had several conversations about people who’ve inspired us and healthy debate as to why we’ve found them so. It’s a topic we get excited about. We want to stimulate debate about leadership and what great looks like. Our views may not be shared by everyone. We take a particular stance on what great leadership is needed in the world if we are to come together as one human race, evolve beyond the ubiquitous command and control approach to leadership. We think that stance will become clearer by the leaders we choose to spotlight.

So who is it we love and why?

Jacinda Ardern, Prime minister of New Zealand

What do we love in particular? Her humility and intuition.

This woman has followed her instincts and her intuition at every step of the way through her first term in charge as New Zealand’s 40th Prime minister. Following a terrorist attack, she banned machine guns instantly, and when COVID-19 hit New Zealand she shut the country down immediately. New Zealand is one of the first countries to be free from the virus. Her intuition in both these circumstances was absolutely spot on. Watching Jacinda on Zoom in her PJs just makes her even more lovable. She’s human too!! And she did all this in her first term with a new born. Superman watch out!! Superwoman has landed. Her humility shines through when she speaks whether directly to the audience or with her staff and we love her.

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham

What do we love in particular? His persistence, resilience and clarity

David Lammy is MP for Tottenham in London for almost 20 years. He’s a tireless campaigner for social justice on the forefront of justice for the Windrush generation and the families effected by Grenfell Towers. If us Whites have learnt anything in the current chapter of the BLM movement, it’s the cost of being a person of colour in a country like Britain where you are willing to persistently speak out against systemic racism. You need only listen to his critique of the current government’s racism inquiry to hear the exhaustion in his voice. And yet he keeps showing up with composure, compassion and transparency, and a vision for a better world for us all. Even if his politics aren’t for everyone we love to see a politician who stands up for what they believe in, shows deep integrity, builds community, works towards inclusion not separation and works tirelessly towards it every day. We are excited to read his new book, Tribes.

Lalya Saad, Author

What do we love in particular? Fierce courage, truth teller, integrity

Two years ago, Lalya Saad was a life coach who put on Instagram a 28 day challenge. Her daily posts comprised of simple questions for readers to reflect on their white privilege and white supremacy. The campaign when viral and her book was born. The courage it takes to write a book called ‘Me and White Supremacy’ in itself shows what this woman is made of. Her ability to use the written word to invite (as long as you can are White and can get over yourself enough to read it) us into a HARD conversation, with love, with compassion all the time whilst taking no bullshit and holding you to account is leadership at its finest. To own those huge range of skill, and to help create a movement to equality, justice and fairness shows stunning leadership. We recommend her book and her podcast.

Jane Elliot, American diversity educator

What do we love in particular? Fierce courage, love, unity

Jane Elliot is an anti-racism activist and educator. Almost always seen in her white sweatshirt with provocative captions, she is clear, firm, articulate, smart and inclusive. Here is a white woman using her privilege for good. Watch her destroy probably everything you learnt about the world map in five minutes. She came to public awareness after the assignation of Martin Luther King, for her powerful blue eyes/brown eyes exercise. It’s intention is to provide an experience to participants on it is to be treated based solely on a physical attribute. The exercise has its critics saying the process results in no substantive behavioural change. That said, as someone who walked through South Africa’s Apartheid museum, having to choose which door I would enter based on my skin colour, these experiences can have a profound effect and at minimum, get white people in discussion about a topic otherwise avoided.

Greta Thunburg – Environmental activist

What do we love in particular? Her passion, integrity and tenacity

Greta, 17 years old, travels the world sustainably, speaks to world leaders and inspires a generation. She strikes every Friday in front of the Swedish parliament. Is there anything more to say? This young woman is so clear on her cause and supporting the human race she stops at nothing. She writes her speeches herself and they are truly inspiring. Her words are compelling: "For too long the people in power have got away with not doing anything to stop the climate and ecological breakdown, they have got away with stealing our future and selling it for profit, but we young people are waking up and we promise we will not let you get away with it anymore”

We see that these people as experts in their field, are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, and are clear and direct when taking action. Over all, all these people stand for great causes that impact the world. They are model integrity, putting in the hard work and ultimately love. Leadership when it is its greatest is inclusive and it combines strength and action whilst being in strong relationships and serving the wider community and the world.


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