5 Things Viola Davis’ Speech Could Teach You About Leadership
Trill or Not Trill?


A week has passed and I’m still learning from Viola Davis’ Emmy award winning speech. Our students can learn a lot about leadership too.

1. Some things are bigger than the battle
The art of being petty is really easy to master. A loss can turn you into Petty Wap (not to be confused with the one eyed crooner, Fetty Wap) almost instantly. Watching Taraji P Henson’s reaction to Viola Davis winning was a thing of beauty. It was a 489477024_Taraji-P-Henson-Viola-Davis-467competition but that fight for top stop became a backstory to what really mattered. As a leader, one has to recognize when it’s more important to be a supporter than a competitor. Winning is integral but when we all win, it’s special. A unified front against a larger obstacle will ultimately lead to victories for you and your competition.

2. Always look to break the mold
Leaving a legacy is something I push my student leaders to do on a regular basis. Be the change on a campus that hasn’t been seen. Just because you aren’t black doesn’t mean you can’t be a vocal member or leader in the Black Student Union. If there hasn’t been a woman student body president, be the first. The moment molds are broken, doors will forever be open for the future. Years after you’ve left, the remnants will still exist.

3. It’s never too late
Viola Davis has been acting since 1993. This is only the second television show in which she’s appeared in more than 10 episodes. At age 50 she made history. Don’t get it twisted, she’s got two Tony awards and a couple Oscars nominations in her pocket, but this was her first leading role on TV. This day and age instant success seems to be the standard. If you feel as if you haven’t made your mark as of yet, keep going. Never give up on greatness. I’ve worked with student who were seniors, who think it’s too late to make a difference. They say they wish they’d become leaders earlier. There is no time limit on inspiration. Make every second count no matter what time or how late it is. If you’ve only got one year remaining, make sure you’re changing lives during that last hurrah on campus.

4. Know your history
The actions of the past undoubtedly impact the present. On a campus, understanding the history of your club or Greek lettered organization can only add to a legacy. Knowing the names and accomplishments of those before you will help you avoid the same mistakes but can also provide inspiration. I was president of a club that was an integral part of the civil rights movements happening in New York City in the early 1970s. Knowing those names and their stories made me want to do better. As Viola Davis invoked Harriet Tubman’s name, we were reminded of a struggle and triumph from centuries ago. Whether it’s an Emmy winning actress or student leader, one of history’s greatest liberators continues to inspire.

5. Matt Damon is a sucka MC
If you ask me, Matt Damon took an L after Viola won. “When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show,” he said, after director, Effie Brown pointed out a glaring problem with how a sole black character is portrayed, and why it’ll be crucial to hire a culturally competent person to direct it. As a leader on a campus, one should recognize how much of an impact, opening doors for others is. Diversify your friendships, executive boards, and colleagues. If your culture isn’t represented on campus, step up and create a club or introduce an event to the campus. Shondaland and company picked Viola Davis to play a role that could have went to anyone else. When others won’t pave a way, create your own road.

Stay trill, folks.