The World Needs Imperfect Leaders

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by Marsha Philitas of

As a reader, you most likely feel called to accomplish change for women of color (whether or not you are clear on what that change may be). You’re in good company here. The thing that I’ve noticed about changemakers and loving souls like you, is that while most of us want change (in our lives or in the world), we hesitate to make that change a reality because we keep our eyes focused on our flaws.

We wonder, what can a flawed person like me do to change the world?

But here’s the thing:

The world does not need perfection.

Our heroes are often far from perfect. Remember Audre Lorde? She suffered from depression, yet still managed to be an amazing voice for those who were marginalized. Oprah dealt with yo-yo diets and negative body image.

What the world needs is compassion in action.

Compassion is the quality of a heart that is wide open to those who are hurting. It’s the quality you embrace when you see someone who is having a rough time, sit with them in their struggle and just listen.

Compassion means to “struggle with” someone. To feel their sadness, doubt and fear, then let your walls down long enough to say, “I’ve been there too.” As Henri Nouwen, a celebrated theologian explains,

“Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

Actions that come from that compassionate place are revolutionary. Because they’re not about raising yourself up to be lauded as a hero or a warrior. Compassionate actions are driven by the need to tell others about the hurt and injustices that you have seen and to remind them to feel their own spaces of tenderness. That’s how Oprah built her audience of millions, how Audre Lorde found the strength to go against centuries of oppression, and how Emily Dickinson still makes a powerful impact on her readers to day.

Those are the leaders that we resonate with. The ones who remind us that we are still human. That it’s OK, and even necessary, to let ourselves connect with others and share our experiences of hurt, sadness and joy.

So honor your humanity, your flaws and your tender spaces.

Your imperfections are beautiful. They remind us all that you are human. And, if you let them, they will remind you of the need for compassion for yourself and for others. Let yourself sink into that compassion you will find yourself one step closer to living out your calling.

Marsha Philitas is a certified life coach and founder of The Trifecta Tribe, an organization that helps queer women of color fall in love with themselves, their lives and their purpose.

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