What We Can Learn from Stacey Abrams’ Book, “Minority Leader,”: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change – by Raziya Brumfield
Motivated by Stacey Abrams’ democratic response to the State of the Union, I immediately purchased a copy of her book Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change. Abrams’ address was historical, as she is the first African American Woman to deliver a State of the Union response. Abrams is a lawyer, politician, business owner, and has authored several romance novels. She also served as Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017 and gained widespread attention when she ran for governor of Georgia, again making history as the first Black female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the history of the United States.
Although she was not elected governor of Georgia, I am sure that due to her charisma, steadfastness and utter grit, we will only continue to see more of Abrams. She wrote Minority Leader for any individual who has been considered “other” whether it is because of their race, gender, socio-economic status or sexual orientation. Abrams attempts not to provide solutions, but to arm minority leaders with tools that can be used to find your ambition, become more successful, and navigate both personal and professional goals. Her book is filled with examples drawn from her personal life as well as situations of others, which provide context and relatable strategies. In her book, Abrams constantly spreads gems of knowledge and insight, while boldly sharing both her weaknesses and strengths. Here is what we can learn from this dynamic minority leader!
- Be bold
Abrams opens her book by discussing her unsuccessful attempt in applying for a Rhodes Scholarship. She explains that the situation was not a defeat but instead propelled her to reach for outcomes and opportunities that before seemed unattainable. In doing so, she learned that “failure is not fatal.” Whether it is a job, a new hobby or speaking up for yourself in a meeting, it is vital to stand tall, be bold, learn from your mistakes and continue to challenge yourself and one another.
She discusses the challenges of attempting to reach new goals despite being afraid. She cautions readers to watch what causes fear and attempt to understand why and where these feelings are coming from. Gaining this understanding is essential to becoming an effective leader
2. Know or attempt to figure out what you want.
As minority leaders, Abrams explains the importance of being intentional about knowing who you are and what you want. She shares with readers that after being hurt by a breakup while attending college at Spelman University, she decided to sit down and draft a spreadsheet, detailing her goals and ambitions for the next forty years! This is a process that she has continued throughout her career. She often assesses her accomplishments, sometimes even altering her goals.
When charting individual goals, she implores the necessity of dreaming big and internalizing your right to achieve greatness. Abrams provides several beneficial tools that can be used to figure out your passion and refine your goals. The following are several specific tools that Abrams employs in her life and suggests of others:
- Take a personality test to better learn your leadership style;
- Set a personal mantra that guides your life;
- Employ a SWOT analysis – SWOT is a common technique used in the business world. It is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats; and, lastly
- Download the following exercises, provided by Abrams, and designed to guide you in revealing your ambitions, available here: http://minorityleaderbook.com/exercises.pdf
3. Finding a balance between being authentic and fitting in
Knowing or figuring out what you want is connected to knowing who you are and how others may perceive you. Abrams further explains the importance of being aware of how you are being perceived by others and addresses the critical balance between fitting in and being yourself. As an African American woman from Compton, California who has lived and worked in Berkley, California; Fairfax, Virginia; Washington D.C.; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, myself, I am familiar with adapting and navigating a multitude of various environments, which can often feel uncomfortable. Inevitably, individuals have different life experiences which shape their understanding of the world. Being aware of the differences that surround you, while remaining true to who you are is a balance that is worth achieving.
4. Be open to having more than one passion.
Abrams refutes the idea that you can only have one true life passion. For individuals like myself who find a multitude of different topics interesting, this point of view is refreshing. Abrams explains that your passion drives you. She suggests that if you can go months or years without engaging in a particular activity or discussing a certain issue, it is not likely your passion. If you are having trouble narrowing down your passion, consider the activities, ideas or thoughts that keep you engaged on a weekly or daily basis. Additionally, use the tools mentioned above to better understand yourself and what drives you.
5. Expand your idea of mentorship.
Abrams pushes back on the conventional style of mentorship as the only way to build beneficial mentorships. She explains the importance of peer mentors and situational mentors. Peer mentors are individuals at your same level who can share valuable insight regarding the nuances of a new job, discuss pay salaries, and even provide constructive criticism of your work style and behavior. Situational mentors are individuals who assist you in handling a particular issue whether it is advice on asking for a pay raise or handling a specific situation effectively. Abrams suggests understanding your own style in determining what types of mentors will best suit you in a given situation or during a particular point in your life.
I have only provided a glimpse of the multitude of lessons we can learn from Abrams’ book Minority Leader. Her work ethic, passion to help others and bold ambition provides valuable insight, which I found to be truly inspiring and I hope you do too.