As the Deciderator in Chief leads us down the abyss and misfortune continues to hump our leg, I have been thinking about leadership.
For me it‚Äôs a cardio thing. My dear girlfriend gave me the latest IPOD in the fond hope that I would get off the eight-track and onto the treadmill. I have 186 songs so far. It‚Äôs the audiobooks I love. At the gym, I‚Äôve listened to books about the leaders George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King. While others on their treadmills pop to hip hop, I‚Äôve been known to stop and shriek like some Paula Revere, ‚ÄúThe British have taken New Jersey!‚Äù before I fly off the back end of the treadmill.
As more and more retired military generals reveal the arrogant lack of preparedness and ‚Äústrategery‚Äù of Rumsfeld and his boys, I sound like Joan Cusack from In and Out, screaming at Kevin Kline after he tells her he‚Äôs gay at their wedding: ‚ÄúWas there, oh, any other time you might have told me this?‚Äù
For real leadership, I think I prefer the King. Billie Jean, that is.
And let me just catch my breath, as I realize that in five days, HBO aired almost seven hours about powerful, real women. Where are my vapors?
Though HBO‚Äôs Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer had a bit too much of her ex, Larry King (not the one with suspenders and the extra row of bottom teeth) for my taste, it gave us the best portrait yet of how Billie Jean got to be the leader she is today. But seeing the scope of what she‚Äôs done over the years, we can all take some leadership pointers from her life story.
Lead from where you are and from what you love. Billie worked for equal pay for women in tennis, the game she loved, with the same brilliant, competitive strategy she used on the court.
Reach out to your rivals as assets and allies. Billie saw that the new darling of tennis, Chris Evert, could help her quest to popularize women‚Äôs tennis as a legitimate contender in the sports world.
Admit your mistakes. Billie admitted, in what must have been an excruciating press conference that yes, she had had an affair with a woman when she was married. Then she went back to work.
Make connections. Billie never fails to connect race and class with gender as a practical matter of justice.
Keep your message simple. Billie‚Äôs definition of feminism as ‚Äúequality for girls and boys‚Äù cuts through acres of ridicule and verbiage. Since we all need to rethink and retool our strategies for achieving full GLBT equality, one of my favorite Kingisms is, ‚ÄúChampions adjust.‚Äù
Once when I was whining to Billie about some new show I was struggling with, she quietly reminded me, ‚ÄúKate, pressure is a privilege.‚Äù
Lead on, my King! And damned be him that first cries, ‚ÄòHold, enough!‚Äô