I run a leadership typologies workshop that helps people define their strongest traits as leaders. Within it, there are various types and characteristics to subscribe to. One of those leadership traits is titled Team Invisible. Invisible leadership recognizes participants who are quiet, less boisterous and are behind the scene. I run into those types of students in my line of work all the time. My advice to those individuals is to build upon other skills to help them become more well rounded. Do what feels natural but also take some chances at improving in other areas. Such versatility helps them impact more lives. One other thing I tell them though, is to master the style of leadership that fits them best. They’re encouraged to be a powerfully quiet leader while continuing to develop skills that would help strengthen themselves overall.
Which brings me to Beyoncé. I recently read a piece in the New York Times referencing a previous article about her not submitting or participating in an interview for her recent Vogue Magazine cover. This article included much commentary about her silence from social media and interviewers in general. Beyoncé was described by some as being just a pretty shell. Others criticized her saying “There is something eerie about a person who doesn’t participate, doesn’t feel the need to speak and connect with other people, to make them laugh and relate and think.” When I hear this type of critique I think of those quiet student leaders spoken about earlier. The ones who aren’t comfortable in certain settings but still produces. They motivate so many without much fanfare. Although we want them to take center stage, we’re also certain that shows won’t go on without them.
These descriptions of Beyoncé suggest that her remarkable skill set as a singer, dancer and performer count for little. I, in turn, look at her as a leader in the field of entertainment. Her leadership skills from the outside attempting to look in doesn’t seem to be the best if we’re considering aspects outside of performance. As an entertainer though, her ratings are through the roof. Let’s go back to my students for a moment. In over ten years within higher education it’s not often I found a leader who possessed equally high levels of excellence in various leadership typologies. Beyoncé has served as a great example for people who want want to reach the top of that show business mountain. Her voice may not be present in the Black Lives Matter movement like some may think she needs to be, but it sure is there for a hit record. She has a foundation helping in Haiti that’s rarely spoken about but when it came time for her last album to drop, that same silence in the form of a surprise album was golden.
Would we want Beyoncé to be as explosively vocal about her people as Nina Simone was? I would, but only if Beyoncé was equipped to speak articulately on those subjects. Should Beyoncé’s catalog include politically conscious lyrics as Bob Dylan’s did in his prime? That’d be great to see if she and her team of writers were sincerely describing true feelings. I would love for our entertainers to have the fervor of a Harry Belafonte or perseverance like Joan Baez. There will always be a hope but never an assumption. If it’s not part of their organic fabric to do so, frankly, the last thing that needs to be seen is an inauthentic artist. I’d prefer silence.
What I would prefer instead, is making educators and activists go viral. As a fan of Beyoncé I want her to be the best entertainer possible. Keep making those hits and churning out those amazing concerts. In turn there are educators and activists out there working just as hard as Beyoncé in their crafts of education, activism and leadership. When I’m looking for deeply articulate commentary from an activist, I turn to Rahiel Tesfamariam and Urban Cusp. If you’re in need of some excellent presence on Twitter, Dr. Chris Emdin and #hiphoped are simply phenomenal on Tuesday nights. I don’t look to Beyoncé for thoughtful inspirational pics on IG about leadership. I follow Professor Lenny Williams and @designbylaw for that. There are countless more people who can provide such services and plenty of celebrities who can give you the famous person fix. Janelle Monae and Killer Mike are there for you. Consider following Jesse Williams for some awesome tweets. You have options other than Beyonce.
So if Beyoncé doesn’t give us what we want that doesn’t make her less of a leader or not as talented. It simply says she’s doesn’t possess all the skills that helps our brains compartmentalize the multidimensional definition of leadership. It says that we need to start taking her for what she is; a dazzling entertainer, might have to be enough. We’ve got to temper our expectations and make those others voices as viral as Beyoncé’s.
Dave Chappelle had so many trill points about celebrities in this special.
Stay Trill, folks.