Leadership in Higher Education Journal Entry #7

Leadership Autobiography Ideas:

For class, we have to present a Pecha Kucha about myself, my leadership style(s), and my identities. They all have to be cohesive and make sense, too. So I thought that I would make a blog post about all of that and see if I could pick out the most important stuff for my presentation.

Beginnings: Leading from the Very Start

PechaKuchaPhoto
I’m the one on top right.

My four younger brothers and I were raised in a low, working class home by my grandmother. Aside from being working class, we were still a pretty privileged family: we’re White, all of us able-bodied, and my grandmother raised us to be Christians (Methodists, to be more specific). My brothers and I went to school in a predominantly White town in Arkansas. There were only about 3,000 people living there and while we had a small amount of Latinx and Hmong families, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of diversity.

The reason that we were raised by my grandmother (and in the beginning, my grandfather) is because my parents were busted for making, buying, selling, and using methamphetamines. There is speculation among my other family members about whether or not my mother was using while she was pregnant with me (most say yes, her mother says no), but either way, my life had a rocky start.

PechaKuchaPhoto2
Myself and my Mother on Thanksgiving 2015. Our relationship has improved greatly in the last 20 years.

The problem with moving in with my grandma is that we were moving from a house of substance abuse to a house of emotional abuse. My grandmother wasn’t the most fit for being a parent. While my mother grew up, she had the luxury of switching back and forth between parents when things got tough as her father and mother were divorced.

It is because of my grandmother’s emotional abuse (mixed with my grandfather’s passing away when I was 7) that caused me to step into a leadership role. While I probably didn’t always do my job of looking out for them due to the fact that my grandmother’s abuse definitely got to them and we didn’t always get along, my brothers and I often banded together against a common enemy. I was the oldest and it was perceived (incorrectly) that I had more sway with “the authority” so I took on a lot of the bigger jobs when it came to talking to her. As I got older, I began to take on a mediator role (if I wasn’t the one caught up in my grandmother’s abusive, emotional shitstorm) where I would find whichever brother was burned by her most recently and make sure he was okay.

Coming Out

I came out as gay when I was 18 and in my second semester of college. I told my mother over Facebook (I hadn’t seen her face-to-face in years) and later told my grandmother. My grandmother told me when I was much younger (early middle school young) that God did not love gay men. Remember, I was raised Methodist and I consider the time I spent before college as a time when I was “indoctrinated.”

PechaKuchaPhoto3
Left: Me, Right: My partner, Drew

So my grandma told me that gay people are bad, bad demons from hell, simply put. Coming out to her was very difficult for me. I spent years before coming out throwing myself into God and trying to  “fix” what truly isn’t broken. Later, I dropped Christianity like a hot potato because it only held toxicity for me. During that time, I also dated a girl on and off for years. I couldn’t make it work because I had different beliefs than she did about what our relationship should look like. And I was devastated when it finally ended for good because I thought that I had to make it work or there was no hope for me. I thought to myself: “Okay, I think I have to just accept this.”

PechaKuchaPhoto4
A little bit of an older photo.

The way that this ties in with my leadership is Authenticity. I believe that for me to lead well, I have to be my authentic self. One of my stop strengths is Empathy and I think that the two are tied together because not only do I want to be authentic, I want others to be, think, and feel in a completely and fearlessly authentic way.

My gay identity has lead me down the path toward a purer authenticity, which leads me to my next topic:

Mask-ulinity: Not Attending the Masquerade

Sometimes, I feel like a little bit of a stereotype because I am a gay man and I do not exude masculine energy. I am delicate, soft-spoken, emotional, and creative. None of the things I just listed are bad things, but they are stereotypical of “traditional femininity” and of gay men.

The truth is, I never could wear the mask that is “traditional masculinity.” Because of that, it is possible that it is hard for people–especially cisgender men–to take me seriously when I am in positions of leadership or authority. I know that it was difficult for my brothers to take me seriously, especially after I came out.

I am truly uncomfortable with wearing masculinity. I find it difficult to speak loudly without feeling fake or uncomfortable with myself. My friends would tell you that I am loud and the truth is that I can raise the volume of my voice, but I don’t put bass or authority into it. My voice gets loud when I’m feeling a lot of emotion–such as excitement or anger–or when I’m laughing. It doesn’t get loud as a way to dominate or control people, which is one very important facet of what I perceive masculinity to be.

So my lack of masculine expression is a very interesting part of my leadership style. I lead from the heart and that is a feminine trait. It makes it easy for some people to brush me off and ignore me (which is really indicative of the throne that masculinity sits on in our society but that is an entirely new blog post). For others, it makes them feel welcome. Like I said, I have high empathy, as it is one of my greatest strengths, and that is tied directly into my femininity because femininity and empathy are both tied to Emotion.

I believe that it is because of my femininity and empathy that I scored low on Bureaucratic and Political leadership and high on Democratic and Transformative leadership. I care about people and about everyone reaching their needs. My top TKI score is in Collaboration. It is important to me for everyone to be served what they need.

 

Leadership Styles

So I scored high or very high in the following categories:

  • Democratic (VH)
  • Situational (VH)
    • Situational Authority (H)
    • Situational Task (H)
    • Situational Maturity (H)
  • Ethics of Care (H)
  • Systems (H)
  • Transformative (H)

I’ll probably have to go back and re-read some of those because I don’t remember at all what Situational, Ethics, or Systems mean in this context.

However, I can say that Democratic and Transformative Leadership are very important to me. They come from caring about other people and about what is best for an entire group.

I think that my birth order, family structure, identity as a gay man, and feminine gender expression are tied to my leadership styles because my leadership style is a reflection of who I am and those identities definitely make up huge parts of who I am.

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