Leadership has a lot to do with how you deal with winning and losing.  
What a giant, the president and a pair of drag queens can teach us about leadership
November 20, 2012

We live in a competitive culture, a fact that has been evident these past few months starting with the Summer Olympics and culminating with the elections.  One of the more moving contests I witnessed during this season, however, came not from Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, or even Messrs. Obama and Romney, but from two drag queens, Manila Luzon and Jujubee, as they lip-synched for their lives on RuPaul’s Drag Race. 
You might chuckle at the images this exchange conjures, but I believe that some of the most courageous people on this planet are gender-fluid males (which include drag queens, cross-dressers and transgender persons).  Imagine the risk involved in stepping out in public in a skirt, heels or even with just a touch of makeup. Untold thousands do so every single day.  Winning, for them, comes in confronting their own insecurities, and a condemning context of social judgment. Victory begins by taking that first step out the front door.
Manila and Jujubee are seasoned veterans of the drag circuit, longtime friends, and the only two competitors of Asian descent in the show. When they stepped up to represent their teams and compete head-to-head, the emotional stakes were high.  Jujubee prevailed, and Manila lost the competition.  “But let me assure you, that Manila is not a loser,” said Jujubee, “because I admire and respect her as a peer, a friend and a person. When I win, she wins too.”  Manila’s teammates said, “We’re going home with our heads held high.  Trust and believe.  It’s all good.”
Competitions come and go, but winning the long game requires humanity and humility.  We witnessed that in the now widely-seen video of President Obama thanking his campaign staff after the election.  Instead of talking about his victory, he focused on the young people in the room.  “Whatever we do in the next four years will pale in comparison to what you will accomplish in the years to come.  The source of my hope, strength and inspiration is you.  You have lifted me up each and every step of the way.” 
Even if he had lost, I believe Mr. Obama would have shared these words with his staff, because as important as it was to win the election, embracing the humanity and humility of the moment to inspire young people for generations to come was the bigger win.
And there’s Buster Posey, the 25-year old San Francisco Giant who was named as the 2012 National League Most Valuable Player.  When asked how he felt about his accomplishment, he said “…it’s an accomplishment that’s shared with the entire organization and the fans.  I couldn’t be more honored than to play for this team.”  He then went on to praise his teammates’ accomplishments and concluded by saying, “The main goal (to win) is to do what you can to help your teammates – to lift each other up.” 
So what can a Giant, the President, and a pair of drag queens teach us about leadership and the long game?  You will always be a winner if you remember to be humble, be human and be thankful.

November 20th is the National Transgender Day of Remembrance. 
Please take a moment to remember those who have been victims of transphobia, hatred and violence and to honor those who work for a more compassionate world.


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Kevin will be facilitating a series of meetings with the Asian American Justice Center in Washington DC on November 30.

Kevin will be facilitating the opening session for the California HealthCare Foundation Fellows in Tiburon, CA on December 3.

Kevin and Puanani will be attending a retreat on Racial Healing in Chicago from December 5-7.

Kevin will be co-facilitating a Board/Staff retreat for the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum in San Francisco from December 17

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