Friday, September 9, 2011

Vote, Run, Lead

I was privileged to meet with dynamo activist Tiffany Dufu this morning, whose bracingly organized mind and big ideas on women's leadership had me glued to my chair while she talked. And I tried not to interrupt too much with questions and my own views on how sports fit with her flow.

Tiffany is the President of The Whitehouse Project, which, as you may now guess, means the "run" in the title of the blog post does not refer to the kind of run I'm usually talking about...but have no fear, I'll bring it all together (the function of my somewhat one-track mind). The Whitehouse Project has for the past decade, through its Vote, Run, Lead program, identified, encouraged, educated, trained and generally set women on their way in politics. New initiatives coming will focus on leadership in other key arenas, like business.

One of the difficulties women face on entering politics is their often innate (genetic? socialized?) aversion to public declarations of ambition. Not just, "I want to do this." But also, "I'm the best person to do this." As Tiffany said, it's as if women believe in the Santa Claus of affirmation, like somehow if we do a good job someone will notice and pat us on the back, without us ever having to call attention to our efforts. We know how well that works out. Where is that Santa guy?

Politics teaches women how to own their ambitions. And if you've read my blog before, you probably already know where I'm going with this. But I'll go there anyway. So does sports. There, I said it, again. Because we're not out of the woods, and reminding is reinforcing, until owning our ambition is encoded into our very DNA. Sports (and involvement in politics) helps shift our consciousness from "maybe someone will notice me over here, tucked in the corner," to "here I am and I want this."

You can vote, run (for office), lead, or you can vote, run (on the roads or trails), lead. The important part is to know, own and capitalize on your strength. That means putting your skin in the game (i.e. vote), owning your strength (i.e. run) and mining the value of your strength (i.e. lead). We're here for a reason (here as in, on this earth, in this world). Let's not waste our time waiting for Santa to show.