Madam Vice President Is Speaking Now

We’re one day away from the inauguration, and the Vogue debacle is still buzzing. Many people described the shot of Kamala Harris as “disrespectful” with the underwhelming wardrobe, unflattering lighting, and messy background. While Vogue attempted, Harris’ essence of true leadership was captured way before this portrait was taken.

With the right guidance from leadership, the potential to be great is something that will grow organically. At some point in life, we’ve all been inspired by that one person. So much so that we’ve followed in their footsteps hoping to create the same impact. But, many of us tend to forget that ability to empower only comes if you’re willing to devote yourselves to personal growth. In the case of Kamala Harris, it meant embracing her true identity, seeking mentorship, and expressing positive body language.

What Makes Kamala Harris A Special Leader

  • Leadership: When Kamala Harris first ran for office, she candidly admitted her identity struggles during her campaign. The process forced Harris to define herself in a way that “fit neatly into the compartment that other people created.” For her, the point was clear: “I am who I am. I’m good with it.” That vulnerability inspired Harris to openly share personal anecdotes of her trips to India during her childhood and leaning into her Black identity as she attended Howard University. The idea was to lead a campaign based on her inner values despite pressure from external forces. While there are various components to leadership, placing honesty and integrity at the forefront will ultimately empower the individuals around you.
  • Coaching: Harris’ often celebrates her late mother, Dr. Shyamala G. Harris, as her greatest source for inspiration and mentor. In high school, whenever Harris complained, her mother challenged: “Well, Kamala, what are you going to do about it?” With that in mind, Harris went on to design a mentorship program for public school teens in 1995. And just recently, acknowledged how her mother’s guidance and consistent retort pushed Harris to run for president. Coaches and mentors can come from anywhere. Whether you’re seeking or taking on a mentor role, be sure there’s a level of personal investment.
  • Body Language: During the 2020 vice presidential debate it was clear: Kamala Harris was speaking. To reclaim her time, Harris made an iconic response that resonated with many people across the nation: "Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking. If you don't mind letting me finish, we can then have a conversation, OK?" Harris said this all while smiling. When questioning former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Harris was consistently cut off. However, in each instance, Harris’ maintained calm facial expressions, direct eye contact, and spoke clearly. When you find yourself in high-stakes situations, communicate posture, facial expressions, and hand gestures that reflect a calm nature.

Becoming a leader starts with focusing on your personal growth. While various elements contribute to leadership (communication, empathy, influence, just to name a few), what truly defines a leader is their ability to use their strengths to encourage individuals to achieve their best. That’s how leaders like Kamala Harris get elected to the second-highest office.

Quote of the Week:

"Just because you don’t fit the classic mold doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. You need to find your own style and someone with a similar style who you can learn from." –Jess Lee, CEO of Polyvore

Conversation Starters

  • Communication: “Communication is the number-one skill we see employers of remote teams looking for.” (Source: Forbes)
  • Influence: Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy inspired a new wave of leaders. Here’s how activists and athletes around the nation have to say about his impact. (Source: CNN)
  • Multitasking: Why you can’t multitask, and why that’s a good thing. (Source: Science Focus)
  • Productivity: Start the new year out with science-backed strategies that will give you a motivation boost to kick start your goals. (Source: CNBC)
  • Public Speaking: Aristotle knows a thing or two about addressing and persuading your audience. (Source: CNBC)

Editor’s Corner

Question of the Week: "My team is switching from anonymous to attributed feedback. I feel reluctant to give feedback with my name attached. How do I overcome this fear?" —Payal, community engagement manager

Editor’s Recommendation: In order to overcome this fear, let’s see the cons of giving anonymous feedback. First and foremost, it can be unactionable. Often times, anonymous feedback can be general and overly positive. While it’s important to praise your peers, there needs to be specific and constructive feedback in order for your team to learn.

Second, anonymous feedback can be misconstrued. As mentioned, anonymous feedback can be general and that which for misinterpretation. How can your team member follow up and gain clarity without a conversation from the feedback source? Lastly, anonymity reinforces that speaking up and being candid can be risky. That's not the case at all.

We can keep going, but the idea is giving anonymous feedback can do more harm than good. While it can be difficult to be direct, keep in mind that your feedback will only help your peer develop the professional skills they need to achieve their goals. Over time, that consistent feedback will help you build a trust-based culture in your organization.

Now’s Your Turn

Kamala Harris didn’t become the nation’s second-highest official without feedback. It took some grit, perseverance, and feedback.

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Cover Photo: New York Times


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