I (and YOU) Want to See You be Brave
“Courage is the virtue upon which all others can come to life.” — Adapted from Maya Angelou.
I have long admired the legendary investor Warren Buffet and I think his advice needs to be adapted to a new world with new contexts. He promotes the idea of working exclusively with people you like. I didn’t have immediate words or the answer for how I thought Buffet’s wisdom could be adapted to today.
I had been thinking about Buffet much and others who came after him recently. I said to a friend and advisor, “people like me have to succeed in a new way, not the same ways Buffet, Zuckerberg, and others like them have.”
One answer to my Buffet question came in the form of a wonderful opportunity to hear the amazing singer-songwriter up close, Sara Bareilles on her tour, Amidst the Chaos. What a courageous role model. Here is a rising star; granted she’s successful but not yet at her peak. This is a fairly young woman using her position to lift up others as her star rises. She had black, Asian, LGBQT, women, straight white men and others on stage. Many different people from all walks of life were honored by her introductions before playing her songs. She edified and lifted up her many different collaborators. She lent them her star power and light both literally and proverbially. Guess what? the sound, quality and concert performance were all — incredible. She didn’t have to compromise to have this incredible band. Being an ally like Sara Bareilles takes incredible courage and thoughtfulness and it’s a risk. It’s not the way things have always been done. Though that way far from guarantees success in our modern world and will certainly become the demise of many. When we’re perhaps insecure and lack courage, we might avoid taking risk on and for others and ourselves. Taking risk includes being an ally to anyone that doesn’t look like yesterday’s and even frequently today’s legacy leadership pages.
Like others, I have had a tendency to say and think that when I can afford to retire and become an obvious success, that is the time when I can really give back and help others with talent but who lack access and opportunity. To be fair to myself, I believe I have done more than most people to lift up women, stand up and support minorities — not by speaking out as much as through listening, helping raise scholarships, coaching and providing resources and access. I’ve made my case to very powerful people, asked the men who care about me to be more and do more for others, not just for me; for those who don’t have all of their privileges. I’ve made my appeal to institutions of power and influenced them to do more. I’ve done this all in my own way, always mindful of actual results and impact over noise and with the goal of changing hearts over creating friction and discord. I haven’t always succeeded and in some cases I’ve paid literally financially and with attacks on my reputation and character. The latter felt bad at the time but didn’t matter when the people who mattered most to me consider the sources. The bad times won’t stop me though honestly they haven’t inspired me either. I also admit, I had felt and frequently thought to myself and aloud to close friends, that I’ve done all that I can. What Sara Bareilles shows is that we can always do more and this mindful attention to being and doing more doesn’t make us less productive. I’m sure Sara Bareilles doesn’t think that at 39 years old, she’s going to retire now and I’m sure she’s not thinking that only then when she’s retired can she afford to become an ally. In a complex and increasingly diverse world, it makes us more successful to find our own paths as allies. Our diverse and complex world is demanding leaders who show the way, not who are waiting to be told how it’s done.
Without courage, we will not be able to stand up for our virtues. Without courage, the opposites of virtue will rule, vices or life passes by without you becoming who you could have been and without the world benefiting from what you could have done.
Virtues can include self control/temperence, patience, kindness, and humility. Is courageous being bold, taking the lead, being the example, showing the others how it is done, like Sara Bareilles?
Values are the “what” that get carried out by individuals who do so through their own personal virtues.
I felt I generally agreed with Buffet’s statement: “Only work with people you like.” To make it modern, he could have added, “Make efforts to like people who are very different from you and with various backgrounds.” His statement left as is works best when everyone has much in common and perhaps they may have the same personalities and skill sets. The challenge with this philosophy is that today’s problems and opportunities are exponentially more complex and multi disciplinary than yesterday’s simple one size fits all web app, consumer products, or finance opportunities. It demands that we go outside of our comfort zone and that includes determining who we like and will accept as colleagues. The homogeneous model of yesterday is broken as we learn that it destroys the value of data and AI product through invalidating biases.
We can reap the value of diverse teammates while managing conflict and putting it to productive work. Unfortunately, no manual or class on how to do this exists in college or business school and it’s not based on a best practice from yesterday. This doesn’t happen by accident and requires thoughtful behavior and leadership by all to determine rules of the road and expectations for engagement. Thank you to Sara Bareilles by showing us one example. Become an example. Both I and you want you to be brave. I won’t be defining myself just on the ability to fit in and win support from the already powerful. Sara Bareilles inspires us to measure ourselves on how we lift others as we strive.
By: Sherri Douville CEO & Board Member at Medigram, Inc. https://www.linkedin.com/in/sdouville/