bring forth the ‘you’

January 28, 2020

Women do not need to be epic and iconic to be a revolutionary. Within you is your own revolutionary who wants to change the story of ‘living in an epidemic of obedience’.

 Those who have turned role models are mostly those who have awakened the world with ‘the shock of the new’. But revolutionaries need not necessarily always be iconic. There is an inner energy and spirit within all women that could make them do things differently and become harbingers of change.

 In the wake of events celebrating the women’s vote centenary in the UK, I enjoyed an opportunity to choreograph a new play called The Cause. It is about suffrage leaders Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett.

Although fighting for the same cause, these two women represented very different voices and strategies. Pankhurst was a militant activist (deeds not words) who engaged in acts of civil disobedience and destruction and spent years enduring prison and force-feeding. Fawcett campaigned via socially and politically peaceful means (diplomacy, dialogue, non-violence) and led an altogether more genteel and secure life, but was equally committed to creating change. These extraordinary women with their utterly authentic voices and values were revolutionaries whose legacies live on and continue to shape every aspect of life for women today.

We all have heroines who inspire awe, gratitude, and humility in us. After all, their legacies changed mindsets and cultural norms. They awakened their audiences and the world with ‘the shock of the new’. They forever changed the status quo.

Diana Theodores is an international women’s leadership expert and the author of Performing As You: How to have authentic impact in every role you play.

Our revolutionaries had big visions and irrepressible spirits. They did not retreat from the phrase ‘This can’t be done’, did not collapse in the face of ‘No’. They persevered. They often suffered and failed. They attracted advocates, fans, and admirers. They started riots. They carried on their paths. They believed in their visions.

We do indeed stand on the shoulders of giantesses, and they are transformative role models of ‘the possible’. That said, you do not need to be epic and iconic to be a revolutionary. Within you is your own revolutionary, poised for acts of courage, risk-taking, standing up, and being counted, speaking up, initiating, and stretching—whatever these acts may be for you. Perhaps:

  • Speaking first in the meeting where you have always held back
  • Making that presentation to more senior, knowledgeable colleagues and believing in your value
  • Taking a visible stand on an issue that is important to you
  • Calling something out when you see it, such as an unconscious bias in operation

Within you is your own revolutionary who wants to change the story of ‘living in an epidemic of obedience’, as Nancy Kline put it, and who will dare to do something differently for herself and others:

  • Dress outside the unspoken company conventions
  • Own your ethnicity, your differences, your ‘otherness’ in a more visible way
  • Help initiate better conversations about diversity
  • Create something you’d love to see in your workplace – start a choir or book club, or take the lead on getting a company crèche set up.

Remember that your iconic revolutionaries were singularly dedicated to their causes. Their missions were all-consuming. They were tireless, driven, obsessed and ferociously uncompromising. They took enormous risks.

Embracing your inner revolutionary need not be epic or perilous so enjoy the breathing space of experimentation! Like my Irish friends say, ‘You can be a legend in your own lunchtime.’ Take a moment to reflect on a risk or action you’d like to take, or a stretch you would like to make. Envision and write down your action plan. Then summon your inner revolutionary and ask yourself: What will be the consequences of ‘not’ doing this?

you do not need to be epic and iconic to be a revolutionary. Within you is your own revolutionary, poised for acts of courage, risk-taking, standing up

There are so many things you can do to move forward as your fullest and most authentic self, below are a couple of key methods:

ask for help

Asking for help shows great strength, and it yields dividends. The impact of those who can display their humanity, who can be moved, passionate, emotional and vulnerable without losing their integrity or authority can be huge, and those who ask for help also display humanity and integrity.

Think of any project, instance of problem-solving, vision or challenging deliverable and you will find some form of collaboration at the heart of it. Asking for help so often ignites creative collaboration. And along the way, you build a rich network of people resources.

mind the gaps in your network

If you have never created a network map, you are in for a revelatory gift. If you have made them before, chances are they are collecting dust and could use a review— you, too, are in for a revelatory gift.

A network map is a big drawing on a big piece of paper using whatever symbols you wish to show your connections to people with whom you have relationships that help you in your growth, talent development, and aspirations. There are countless examples online if you need inspiration.

It’s useful to put actual names on your map and to show the nature of each relationship by using different symbols, colours, and lines. On your map, include those with whom you enjoy excellent, trusting, ‘have your back’ relationships, those you connect with frequently, those close by, those farther afield, those you need to connect with but have an unequal relationship with (or one that is more difficult to maintain) and so on. There is no right or wrong, but it is helpful to go big and spread the net as wide as possible.

When you’re finished, take a step back and look over your map.

  • What is revealed? What surprises you?
  • How well is your current network serving your development, your goals and your vision?
  • Is it cosy and comfortable?
  • Is it diverse in gender? Is it generational?
  • Does it spread across your organisation?
  • Are there any glaring gaps in terms of what you need?
  • To whom do you need to reach out? Why?
  • When will you do that?

No matter how long it has been, people want to hear from you. If you’re reaching for the stars, then they will make time for you. If they cannot now, they will on another occasion. You are on their radar. Go and make those calls. Do it today.

summon your inner revolutionary

Summoning your inner revolutionary can help create your own template for leadership and help change the story of what professional life looks like. Nothing short of expressing your inner revolutionary is needed to create the change you want to see in the workplace—to create a workplace where you and your integrated life and work, your ‘lifework’ can thrive.

Summoning your inner revolutionary can help create your own template for leadership and help change the story of what professional life looks like.

The call of the revolutionary within you, whether gentle or gigantic, silent or seismic, diplomatic or disruptive, is your unique energy and gift that must be expressed. Drop the corporate mask; allow yourself to express emotion rather than damping it down; share your vulnerability rather than blockading it; speak language that conveys your meaning effectively rather than speaking in the shorthand company jargon; harness your animated, passionate, energised self and do not let it atrophy under conformity and conventions that may be long out of date.

As the legendary dancer, Martha Graham reminds us: There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.

The greatest act of your inner revolutionary is the act of bringing yourself fully through that door and performing as ‘you’ in all the roles you play. Go forth. The world needs you.