Jennifer Ford Reedy

Note from Jen: Queer eye for leadership

March 18, 2019

Of all the things I love about my job, the most joyful is getting to talk to Bush Fellowship finalists when they come to our office for their final interviews.

I love talking to people about their aspirations for making our region better for everyone. And I love talking to people about how the process of applying to be a Bush Fellow has helped them understand what they need to be the leader they want to be.

Only 24 people are getting a Bush Fellowship this year, out of 684 who applied. Since so few are chosen, we see it as a critical part of the program's impact for the process of applying to be useful in and of itself. (And in an anonymous survey of all applicants this year, 88% said the process was helpful in identifying personal strengths and weaknesses and 88% said it increased their belief in what they can accomplish — so we have reason to believe it is working.)

In my experience, the people who get the most out of the process are those who enlist others to help. The Bush Fellowship is extremely flexible. The hardest part of applying, in my mind, is figuring out what you need to be a more effective leader. It requires a high degree of self-awareness. And it requires a clear vision and imagination for how you can grow. It is hard to do on your own.

I love the tv show "Queer Eye" for a number of reasons. In the show, five guys who are experts in various life skills blast into a person's life to try to build up their confidence and help them present themselves as the person they want to be. It is a master class in working across difference and how to support and inspire people toward personal transformation.

I particularly love it because it reminds me of what we all need in our leadership development: We all need people to tell us what is great about us that we can build on and grow. We all need people to call us out when we are showing up or doing our work in ways that undermine our aspirations. We all need people to push us to think bigger and think differently about what is possible.

It takes a lot of vulnerability — and therefore bravery — to ask for this help from people. I encourage you to think about who your Queer Eye for Leadership team can be. Who has seen you in action who can offer helpful perspective on your opportunities for growth and your potential? Who has expertise or experience who you can ask for advice on how to work toward that growth and potential? You won't get the new wardrobe you could get on the tv show, but you just might get a vision and a plan for a happier and higher-impact you.