Balance is a beautiful thing.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to develop an appreciation for the ability to stay upright and stable that I never had when I was a bendy and resilient child. Back then I was not afraid to make occasional and unexpected contact with the earth. Now that I have learned to value balance and realize it takes work, I can’t take it for granted anymore.
I recently finished physical therapy for a knee problem; the hardest part of my therapy was when the dreaded BOSU ball came out. If you aren’t familiar, a BOSU ball is an inflated rubber half-ball attached to a solid base; it is very wobbly and standing on it is difficult. The stability ball (or torture device, depending on your point of view) increases strength, balance and coordination — all good things. However, if you are lacking balance, this device is incredibly challenging.
It forced me to engage my muscles and my core in a way that I wasn’t used to and it was a very uncomfortable experience. Luckily, when she wasn’t laughing, my physical therapist Veronica was patient with me, and I found myself growing stronger and more resilient each week. It was a great feeling to see the improvements in my ability as time went on.
Like a strong body, leadership is better when it is balanced. It is well-documented that companies that strive for a balance by diversity in their leadership perform better than companies that are homogenous.
For example, research has shown that females tend to bring a different dynamic to a role than their male counterparts: They create more inclusivity; their leadership style is generally more open and collaborative, less hierarchical and more innovative. Women are generally found to value diversity and to work to build relationships. Conversely men’s leadership styles are typically performance based, task-focused; they tend to prefer well-defined team roles and to create competition between team members. Both groups exhibit different strengths. Racial and ethnic diversity has been shown to have a strong impact on the financial success of companies as well.
To have inclusive, balanced leadership means that opportunities exist for a variety of thoughts and opinions; it is recognized that different life experiences result in different ways of looking at problems and often in a greater variety of solutions.
Empowering people from different backgrounds, races, genders, socioeconomic classes and ages has been shown to improve decision-making. This results in better solutions to problems, increased creativity and insight, more innovation and increased morale and productivity. Rather than looking at opportunities and challenges with a view that has been shaped by conformity, diversity widens our focus to include other possibilities that may have gone unrecognized.
The leadership in Kenosha has never been balanced or reflective of our community at large. Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in all our elected offices. Our elected body should draw from the strongest of all groups in our society. By opening seats at the table to a richer spectrum of voices with a variety of talents and problem-solving skills, we would gain a greater ability to face challenges and identify opportunities.
While balance is a beautiful thing, it can also be a difficult thing (flashback to the BOSU ball). There are barriers that make it difficult for underrepresented groups to become more involved in local government. They can lack the networking resources available to people in power, or lack the financial resources to run a campaign. They may find it difficult to take time away from work to campaign and serve and still make ends meet financially. Mentors are often more difficult to find. Women face bias in that they are expected to maintain a home-life balance that isn’t generally imposed upon male candidates.
2018 is an election year. On the local level, City Council, School Board, and County Board seats will be filled. Wouldn’t we be creating a stronger Kenosha to look around us for future leaders that would bring balance to our elected boards and then empower them to run for local offices? To make the leadership in Kenosha reflective of the strength, innovation and dynamic nature of all of our citizens? Then, like a balanced and healthy body where all muscles are strong and engaged, it would allow our community to strive for greater things.