Anita Patel headshot.

Anita Patel: Building skills in equitable leadership

August 10, 2021

We are excited to begin accepting Bush Fellowship applications! Have you thought about how you would grow your leadership with a Fellowship? As you think about all that is possible, I encourage you to reflect on what it means for you to be an equitable leader. At the Bush Foundation, we believe being an effective leader IS being an equitable leader. This is true no matter the issue area you are passionate about or the community you work with.

We encourage all Fellows to build skills in equitable leadership as a core part of their plan. Why? Because effective leaders can imagine and lead change that works for everyone. And that requires deep understanding of racial equity and a commitment to create or recreate systems that are truly just and equitable. This commitment to effective, equitable leadership is another aspect of the Fellowship criteria beyond a vision for large-scale change.

A Bush Fellowship is not about incremental growth. It is about imagining what could be possible through your leadership. It supports you to develop in ways that can deeply transform you and make the visions you create with your community possible. 

As you explore a Fellowship, here are some questions to consider about your own leadership growth:

  1. Where do you feel like the healthiest, strongest version of yourself and how can you build that foundation? Is attending ceremony, visiting the land of your ancestors or rooting yourself in culturally relevant health practices what you need to thrive? Claim it! Some of us have been conditioned to identify our gaps and work to fill them, but not always invited to think about where we feel strong. To transform your leadership, your place of strength will be your touchpoint that gives you openness to try new things, grow in ways you never imagined and invite vulnerability in yourself.
  2. As you think about leading with racial equity at the core, where do you feel confused? Hopeful? Accomplished? Exhausted? Energized? Reflecting on this can help you identify what you need to be most effective. Don’t run away from the emotions—it’s okay to let down the façade that you’ve got it all handled. Investing in your own development entails deep honesty about your opportunities for growth and the ways you might meet those goals.
  3. What is your impact, and what are people’s experiences of you as you work to lead change? Do people want to join you? Does your leadership inspire others? If you don’t know how people experience you, ask. It’s vulnerable to ask others what it’s like to work for change with you, but it can also be incredibly illuminating and can unleash deeper relationships that help you scale change in exciting ways!

An effective leader is one who works to be healthy and whole while centering racial equity and justice. That takes strong, connected effort. Reflecting on questions like these could help you imagine things that may never surface otherwise and get real about the deep opportunity for transformation. We hope that great ideas will emerge as you think about your leadership journey and how you can help lead our region toward justice.  We are excited to read about them in your Fellowship applications!   

- Anita