My younger sister brought this idea to my attention recently, man spreading. She flew into Chicago on a Friday night and as we picked her up at Midway Airport she just had to get her frustration off her chest. Here’s what she had to say.
|First, let me just say this is not a complaint on dimensions of a man compared to my 5’1’’ frame. Having broad shouldered brothers and 6’2” husband, I get it. Airplane seats are less than ideal and nearly impossible to fit in. That being said, when I sat down next to a young, same size-ish man as myself, I didn’t think I’d have to fight for my own seat space with such assertion. With an aisle spot, this guy took up his seat and then some of mine for the majority of the flight. Elbows out, knees repeatedly pushing me into a narrow (real uncomfortable) crossed leg position.|
I’ll admit this is a funny topic, but I feel that it depicts something that is really going on in our culture. The discussion around this issue is one that has quietly been going on for a while now.
During my lifetime I’ve noticed something, the leaders of our political and government, religious practices, groups, education departments, medical industry, and business and industry have been led, and ran by white males. In my lifetime the leaders of these areas have started to see some diversity. Which is great for culture, politics, religion, education, and every other aspect of culture. It’s not only great for the people that are affected by these parts of culture, but it’s great for the leaders who get to lead. Unless you’re the guys who are being replaced; aka the white males that have been leading. No longer do we live in a culture that allows leaders to lead based on their last name, the color of their skin, or gender. There is at least a debate (it may not be a fair debate yet, but the discussion is actually being had). Until recent history in America, the number of non-white males holding leadership in these realms is few and far between.
In my opinion, of what I’ve observed, is that white males (which I am one of) have felt the pressure to give up their leadership roles based on their gender and color of their skin and now have to actually lead and earn that space and position of leadership. So they react by man-spreading, maybe not like one would on a public transit but still. This happens in comments like, “I’m not racist but….” “You’re in America learn our language….” (as if we had our own official language). “You’re successful for a _____”
I am grateful to have worked in a company named Denso Manufacturing that had a goal of empowering and promoting anyone who was worthy of being promoted. I’m sure they weren’t perfect in this, but from what I experienced minorities and women were given a shot at leading, and some are thriving there as well. I’m encouraged by the recent announcement of Willow Creek Community Church’s leadership transition taking place. Founding Pastor Bill Hybels will be replaced with Co-Ed Lead Pastors, Heather Larson, and Steve Carter. This is a monumental shift!
I do believe organizations and companies are making some major strides in regards to how they are intentionally stopping the manspreading within their own ranks. I’ve witnessed my own denomination do this in recent years by electing Jo Anne Lyons as the General Superintendent.
So what if you’re like me, a white male in a leadership role, what should we do? I believe number one, pull your legs together. Create space for others to lead. Don’t lead by position or title, earn it. Build up the reputation, credibility, and lead by example. We must first admit this happens and is an issue. The fact that women on average are paid $.79 to do the same job men do and are paid $1, we must admit and address it. If we can pay a man to perform the same job it’s not a lack of funding, it’s a lack of confidence, trust, and an increase of greed on our part. We must believe that non-white males can actually do a great job and might even do a job better than we may, and that’s ok. It’s uncomfortable to watch someone outperform you, but it is okay. As a leader, we are meant to lead, and that usually means creating space for others to lead.
Secondly, do the difficult thing and earn your position over and over again. Reinvent yourself as a leader. The world and markets are changing which requires new leadership. Relearning how to communicate, relearning the market, and relearning how to accomplish something you’ve already known is a challenge. Matt Keller defines teachability as being willing to relearn that which we think we already know. Teachability is the key to success. Check his book out, Key To Everything.
Squeeze in and give others, especially the emerging leaders, room to lead. Be okay with others accomplishing tasks, goals, in ways that you aren’t comfortable with. Be there to offer advice, but not overwhelming them with your crushing man-spreading. I look forward to the day that leaders are leading based on their merit, not simply holding their leadership positions because of their skin color, last name, or gender. I believe when this happens we’ll experience some great days!
Stephanie Smith & Marc Ulrich