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Risk is a rich four letter word, oozing with complexity. The path to meeting my new friend Michelle Miller was risky for me — after an hour within her personal presence, I’m grateful for how she stretched me, and strengthened my faith in “me.” If you have a ticket to the Good Leadership Breakfast this Friday, you will see what I mean.
“Michelle Miller” is a simple, pedestrian name. It rolls off the tongue in a comfortably familiar Midwestern, Caucasian sort of way. The simple unconscious act of forming that opinion is at the heart of the risk: she’s a proud and strong, Southern-born African American woman, wife, grandmother, and corporate lawyer with a calmly powerful perspective on faith, fairness and our future together as leaders.
Entering her office at the palatial Medtronic headquarters evokes an unfamiliar surge of curiosity and calm. You won’t find the typical signals of a “corporate lawyer,” with a big-firm pedigree. Instead, she’s curated her own art gallery of spiritual icons from world’s most powerful influences. “In my job, many times the people who come to me are upset,” she explains. The trappings of her office help establish a neutral ground for important conversations. It is reasonable to think that many white males are uncomfortable in her worshipful office space.
But let’s not be overly romantic: her story and her message will likely stretch you, as it did me. Her journey includes moving north from the deep south, to Chicago and then Minneapolis. She’s acquired immense life wisdom – leveraging her undergraduate counseling psychology studies into a law degree, while raising children. She survived several years of a “commuter marriage” while parenting in a world that was desegregating. Along the way, she has learned to include other traditions beyond the Bible in her personal and professional life. That’s especially important in promoting diversity and inclusion across the global mosaic of Medtronic.
As a suburban, white, middle-aged male, it would be easier for me to avoid the topic of multicultural leadership. I’m often nervous about offending people who don’t look like me. But, alas, October is Diversity and Inclusion month and I’ve committed to building momentum around the concept of Leading Together: in celebration of multicultural leadership. Meeting Michelle Miller makes me a better leader…she helped me strengthen my faith in myself. I’m so excited for you to meet her!
Good leaders make a habit of stretching their own perspectives to see the world through unfamiliar eyes. And they embrace the butterflies of uncertainty as the opportunity for personal growth and building faith in ourselves.
Please share with us: what rich perspectives have enhanced into your leadership?