6 Major Mindset Shifts for 21st Century Leaders in Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” (Part One)


The world is still buzzing with the light and love that was unleashed at the inauguration – it felt like we were finally seeing America again for what it really is – compassionate, diverse, confident and ready to face it again with the take in the world.

It was a moment when it felt like we not only had the catharsis we needed considering the toll of the coronavirus and the lives lost – but also a moment when we could hope again.

While the path ahead is still strewn with obstacles, it feels like we have a renewed sense of hope and possibility.

Like many others, I was obsessed with the confident and awe-inspiring Amanda Gorman, who read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration. Standing out like a jewel at an event packed with powerhouse performers like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez (not to mention Bernie’s mittens), her words were a ringing clear call for us to see our own power and our own place in that history moment to recognize .

Another who was deeply moved was a leadership coach and co-founder of Enso Impact Agency Kirk Suederwho saw wisdom in her words for 21St century leader. I met him to find out more.

Afdhel Aziz: Kirk, welcome. Please tell us about the moment that catalyzed this wonderful discovery?

Kirk Sueder: The inauguration seemed set to culminate in the President’s address, and I was about to get back to my day when suddenly a bright and shining beacon of a woman boldly stepped up to the microphone and ignited like a Roman candle Flare after flicker unleashed wisdom whose light brightened even the midday of a fully sunlit day on the Mall.

Their torches aimed high to illuminate the heights of culture and consciousness, which they did with resounding force but could as a transformative coach working with leaders trying to define and achieve a new 21st century business paradigm I couldn’t help but recognize in her profound poetry truths that could serve as cairns to guide an ascension.

What follows are just six of those truths from Amanda Gorman’s epic poem “The Hill We Climb” that, in my experience, could work as effective interventions for the self-imposed barriers I often encounter in the minds of leaders trying new to apply their business mastery toward purpose and effect in the world.

Aziz: Wonderful! Let’s start with this line “…We have learned that quiet is not always peace…”

southern: As Gorman speaks to the underbelly of the American consciousness that until recently has been overlooked in a kind of wishful cultural bypass, the core truth of this statement has powerful implications for 21st-century business leaders. So often these purposeful leadership archetypes have a marriage of seemingly great leadership qualities – a love affair with both quick impact and team equanimity – but this marriage has a tendency to misinterpret conflicts and challenges of the status quo within their ranks as speed bumps, counter-mission and their idealized expectations of a “purpose-oriented culture”.

As a result, they can unconsciously create an environment that is quiet, but not necessarily peaceful. Where it is not convenient, honorable, or even safe to express opinions, thoughts, or new ideas that might create conflict and discord. This becomes a self-defeating cultural ecology for the leader, as personal security breeds honesty and authenticity that breeds new and innovation, which breeds even greater mission accomplishment and business success.

For the economy of the 21st century, peace is not stillness, peace is the state of higher evolution and excellence brought about by the transformation of challenges and authentic expression by all into the improvement of performance and culture.

Aziz: I love that! “Peace is the state of higher evolution”. So, getting to these lines, how about “…a nation that is not broken but simply unfinished…”

southern: Another thinking problem that can plague influential leaders because of their eagerness to make a meaningful positive contribution to the world is the misinterpretation of “failure” as an indicator of personal or systemic brokenness. Instead of understanding that a company, product, initiative, campaign, etc. and even a person is always an iteration of a larger evolution in the process, they can get stuck in the gap in between What happened? and what they wanted to happen. You see it that way Broken Instead of unfinished. You see it as one “something is wrong” Instead of a natural learning process to improve a next iteration, or even as a breadcrumb to a powerful pivot creating an even more spectacular approach. And so they create perceptual blinders in the condemnation of “broken” that forbid them to see the learning opportunity or even a much more spectacular possibility.

Aziz: This is certainly a strong rephrasing of failure. What did the lines “…but that doesn’t mean that we strive to forge a perfect union, we strive to forge a purposeful union…” evoke in you?

southern: We’ve all heard that “perfect” is the enemy of “good”. What Amanda Gorman revealingly adds here is that it can also be the enemy of Purpose. It is common in the mindset of business leaders who engage in the 21st century business arena of purpose and impact to confuse the notions of perfection and purpose, thereby holding themselves back from great opportunities to generate greatness for their mission.

When they look out into the world for companies, platforms, and potential partners that could help them make sense of the world through the business platform, they often quash those who show such confusion when they firmly cling to that confusion kind of “Imperfection” in terms of the idealized form of its purpose. (“X Brand can help us bring our clean water innovation to the world, but there is one product on their list whose supply chain is not yet 100% sustainable, so let’s not intervene”).

As a result, they may miss both an opportunity to greatly scale and amplify the impact of their purpose, and an opportunity to address this apparent imperfection in their impact partner, organization, or platform. A great example from our executive coaching work is Kim Culmone, SVP Global Product Design, Mattel. When she connected to her inner purpose of serving the world’s disenfranchised and first experienced assessment of the common imperfections of a Fortune 500 company, her first impulse toward “perfection” was to start a nonprofit organization to achieve their goal.

As she experimented with letting go of that judgment for a possible greater good, she had an epiphany that the brand’s global platform was a partner, enabler and amplifier of its purpose, transforming the Barbie brand into the most diverse and inclusive doll on the planet. of all colors, shapes and sizes, which is attributed to the fact that in the last quarter (relevant podcast here: session 8). It did not allow “perfection” to get in the way of its “purpose”, and both society and the economy have benefited significantly from this.

For the second part of this interview please click here.


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