Re-Thinking Male Leadership

Masculinity; it’s always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

Helping my son with his homework this weekend, we found the Amnesty International motto:

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

[Click here for more on Amnesty and the source of that motto]

That motto says something about how I’d like to approach my work with men.

You could talk about how men are often outperformed by women in leadership studies or in educational achievement; or about how nearly 95% of the prison population in the UK is male (making crime very much a ‘male issue’) or how men in some demographics are up to four times more likely to take their own lives than women; or the incidence of bullying at work. And there are plenty of other ‘negative’ examples.
It is definitely time to start having more open discussion of issues like these, and to encourage more men to be actively involved in doing so. But for me the darkness is only a part of the picture – and a potentially dis-empowering one at that.

If you look for them, there are examples of men leading with very positive impact in all kinds of areas – at work, in large and small commercial businesses, in the charitable sector and in the public sector. Men who have had to make difficult choices (perhaps unconsciously) to behave in ways that actually go against some expectations about what it means to do things “…like a man” but which are genuinely masculine. That’s where the answers are and where the inspiration is for the rest of us.

I think we need to know where the darkness is – and then light a candle to show that there is more to it than that.