Confidence and Solidarity
The Benefits of Recognizing Our Worth
I'm finally getting back on the road instead of spending most of my time on Zoom and Teams, so I'm seeing the impact of the last three years directly. One thing stands out: despite the stress of recent upheavals, people have gained a lot of confidence from having had to navigate the unexpected at work.
This is especially for those outside the leadership mainstream, who may have been unsure about their role or their prospects. In my experience, they have become far more assured of their value, and more determined to be recognized for their potential as well as their contributions.
Growing confidence at all levels is in fact one of the primary reasons that so many have been willing to abandon jobs that may have looked good on paper, but which they perceive as demeaning, unsatisfying, a poor fit for their talents, or a potential dead end. This strengthened confidence has also led to greater solidarity, an increased eagerness to support others who may be struggling to find their place or make their voices heard.
Solidarity is an old-fashioned word, long associated with labor or student strikes, that I believe needs to be retrofitted for an era when the forces of division are active but the benefits of coming together are obvious and strong. Solidarity arises when we focus on what we have in common and what we are trying to achieve– our shared roots and our shared purpose– rather than highlighting what divides us or what makes us feel shortchanged. Although solidarity is often born out of painful experience, it always looks forward to what can be done.
Social movements such as Black Lives Matter and MeToo have been key to strengthening solidarity in our era, giving public expression to bitter forms of exclusion that were rarely shared and routinely glossed over. So too have the networks, initiatives and employee resource groups that have evolved in organizations around the globe in recent years and been given greater scope by the ability to connect virtually. They have given a voice and a forum to those who were formerly expected to simply adapt.
In the past, many who held senior positions were reluctant to join or even publicly support these initiatives. For example, during the 1990’s I was often asked by client companies to try to drum up support from high-level women for women’s network events that served female employees at less senior levels. The majority who declined noted that they had “worked hard to be seen as a leader, not a woman,” and feared that signing on would undermine their hard-won status.
Today, senior leaders are more likely to view supporting women at less senior levels as an opportunity to distinguish themselves, enhance visibility, and build useful connections. In sum, a good career move. And because many senior women have by now benefited from these initiatives, they regard participation as a way to pay it forward by actively advocating for those who are coming up. I see a similar evolution in networks that serve people of color and sexual minorities.
History teaches that this kind of solidarity has amplifying effects that can transform even situations that seem stuck. Whereas mighty organizations– or nations for that matter– can be quickly paralyzed by infighting and division, extraordinary things often happen at warp speed when people come together and focus on the we rather than the they.
You can pre-order my forthcoming book Rising Together at a discounted price before publication on February 28. Just click one of the links below. If you do pre-order, you will be invited to attend a free 60-minute Zoom workshop with me on April 11th.
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