“Labels are for cans, not people.” Anthony Rapp
I am often finding myself buying wine based on the labels.
The first winery that I went to was in Santiago, Chile about 15 years ago. You can read about that adventure here. Up until that point, I wasn’t a fan of wine except for the super sweet rieslings. After the visit to the Concho Y Toro Winery, I became hooked on Malbec, Carmenere, and beautiful wine labels. Over the years, South American wines have become my go-to at restaurants and liquor stores.
And here is a secret about how I select the perfect bottle, I buy 90% of wine based on the labels. I am a sucker for a cool looking label followed closely by price. And if I see a Malbec or a Carmenere with a cool label and a price tag under $15, I will buy several bottles. Recently, I bought some beer, and even though I am not a big beer drinker, I found myself drawn to the cool cans and so I bought the funky looking six packs with the cans that spoke to me.
And when I buy these bottles, I assume that the cool label and type of wine will be a wise choice. There are occasions when the label is fantastic but the wine is trash. Some of my friends give me a hard time because I like to buy box wine. And before you judge, box wine is good, economical (4 bottles), and stays fresh longer. When I was in my darker days, I would open a bottle of wine and drink the whole bottle without thinking twice. I would tell myself that I didn’t want to waste a bottle. At least with box wine, I can have a couple of glasses and call it good.
While picking a bottle of wine might not always work out, its wine. I’m out maybe 15 dollars and wine has no feelings. Life is too short to drink crappy wine. Problems occur when we start picking people and making judgments on people based on labels and or stereotypes. Because we are dealing with HUMANS and labeling people says a lot more about us than the people we are labeling.
I believe 100% that to be an effective leader; you need to be aware of your blind spots. It is essential to be mindful of what your blind spots and biases are because we all have them and if you are not aware of what they are, you will not meet your full potential as a leader!
Of course, there are the obvious ways we label each other tattoos, skin color, gender, hairstyle, and size of the clothes we wear. But what about the less obvious ways we label and judge each other? Even more important, is what the labels we place on ourselves that are holding us hostage from the life we deserve are?
A few months ago I sent out a survey to female firefighters across the country. Out of the 3500 women, 125 finished the survey, and I am very grateful for their honesty. One of the questions I asked was to list the barriers to promote. And overwhelmingly the respondents wanted to know how to lead men. I was stumped on this because I honestly never thought of being a female leader in a male-dominated profession.
My struggles with the fire service have had nothing to do with my ability to do the job or lead. The teams that I have led have always been mostly men and have always been loyal and dedicated.
It wasn’t until the last few years that I have started to embrace my unique lens and just be me. And you know what? I still have loyal crews, I speak my mind respectfully, and I have gained more confidence in myself as a leader. Do all the men I work with like me? Nope, but I have let that go. I don’t have time to deal with the small minority. Instead, I choose to focus on helping the majority.
While this might is closely related to the above label, there is a subtle difference. Being successful is one thing, being wanted/ accepted is different. It has been my experience that if you are competent and genuine, gender/ race usually doesn’t matter from the male perspective. Telling yourself that a man doesn’t want you in a leadership role is FEAR speaking up. Squash those lies and step into the leadership role!
No, you will not be perfect. Yes, you will make mistakes! Be accountable and own up to the mistakes you make. Be vulnerable and genuine to your people, trust me it works!!
Of course, there will be a few (both men and women) who don’t want you to be a leader. But that thought process has a lot more to do about THEM and their insecurities and issues. Don’t give others that kind of power over your life. I have found that taking the time to form genuine relationships with the women and men you work with is key.
There is no one else in this world that has your uniqueness. One of the pitfalls that I have seen happen to women in the fire service is they play down their personality and leadership skills. But here is the thing, YOU. ARE. NOT. ONE. OF. THE. GUYS. I know that I am stating the obvious, but when you are in a male-dominated profession it’s easy to play small, quiet, and just fit in. The most important piece of advice that I can give you is to remain faithful to yourself, be you, embrace being different, and never compromise who you are to try and fit in. You have a unique and diverse skill set that you have to offer the world, your community, and your organization.
I am confident that it isn’t just women in the male-dominated world, who feel they need to be the label they are given. Regardless of your profession, remember that your perspective is uniquely yours! Share it with the world!!
Are you willing to dig deep to uncover your unconscious biases? Where do you even start? I am glad that you asked 🙂 I would suggest that you start by sitting quietly and start thinking about what your fears are. What makes you uncomfortable when you think about leading promoting, or keeps you from getting to know your neighbor? I have always found that if something makes you uncomfortable, it is an excellent place to start asking yourself why. Have you not promoted because you don’t want to be singled out? I guess that you are letting FEAR take up space. Remember FEAR, Face Everything And Rise!!
There are no guarantees that you will be successful if you put yourself out there for the promotion, the job, or the date! But there is a 100% guarantee that you won’t be successful if you NEVER TRY.
Here is my challenge to you, tell me what type of leader you aspire to be. Or share with me your leadership style. How do you lead in your life? What life experiences have shaped you on your leadership journey?
AND. I want you to be aware when you start labeling people, what are your biases saying about you?