Some weeks ago i found myself being challenged on the leadership lens and approach that are embedded across my trainings. For starters i’m always open to critique. I think it’s important that anyone can make comment on both my style and content. I believe even better things can be born from any form of critique.
The main point of the feedback focused on my use of the term leadership when used to address the problem of men’s violence against women.
To set the scene I firmly believe that when it comes to prevention of violence and abuse, we all need to be aware of the role we can play to support wider prevention work.
However, when I look at the issue of men’s violence against women, I firmly believe we need to see better leadership from men to help eradicate these issues. In Taking up this leadership role I believe we will see a major shift in the narrative around men and a real diminution in levels of domestic abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women.
I just wanted to respond with some clarity and purpose to reassure that my use of the word leadership is not with the intention of reinforcing the male stereotype of men as leaders, which was the basis of the critique.
So, what is a leader and what are the attributes of good leader? When it comes to preventing men’s violence against women, my thoughts behind this are that we see far too many examples of either poor leadership or no visible leadership whatsoever.
For me a leader is someone who sets the tone for a team or a group of people to help them achieve and flourish.
- A good leader is able to communicate their values, acts and makes decisions based on these values. (The tone setting I refer to above)
- A good leader is prepared to ‘do the knowledge’.
- A good leader is an ally.
- A good leader is able to show compassion and validate the experience of another.
- A good leader provides hope.
- A good leader has an idea where they want to go.
- A good leader is consistent.
- A good leader is a role model.
- A good leader is prepared to show moral courage.
The last trait I mention ‘moral courage’ underpins my leadership approach. When it comes to prevention of any form violence it’s clear, going against the grain will be required. Having the ability to step up to challenge a colleague or a friend will take courage. Similarly supporting a friend or colleague may seem obvious but it still presents risk. Again, this will take courage.
My ask of better leadership from men to address men’s violence against women is clear. I know from experience that when faced with the abusive behaviours of other men, men still find it challenging to step into the spotlight.
The spotlight effect is a term I use to describe when you stand out from the crowd. For boys and men, the ground illuminated by this spotlight is like quicksand. It’s unsteady, it’s uncertain.
“What will happen when I stand on this ground?”
“Will I be ridiculed for saying this?”
“What will my friends think of me?”
These are all genuine fears of boys and men. Hence the need for courage and hence the need for these responses to be framed as leadership issues. When we frame them as such we provide the opportunity for men to listen to the men. We can provide tools for men to be better leaders. Importantly men will see that other men will respect them when they put this leadership into practice.
Better leadership from men will help create a peer culture where sexist abuse and other abusive behaviour is seen as wrong and unacceptable. For boys and men in particular, this abuse comes to be seen as a transgression against—rather than an enactment of—the social norms of masculinity. I believe better leadership from boys and men will save lives, both of men and women.
Our boys need better role models to help them see their potential. Our boys need better leaders in their lives.
By the way another trait of a good leader is that leaders help create leaders.
For information on how you can help create this leadership. Check out my website http://www.grahamgoulden.com