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4 Steps to Remove Stereotypes in Leadership


Do you tend to see people by their differences or their similarities?

I get this is a loaded question, but pause for a moment and think about it. Imagine you’re walking down the sidewalk and a person is approaching? What do you see? What do you notice? How do you react?

This concept hit me in the face a few days back.

My 14-year-old daughter wanted a nose ring. I don’t know what to think about stuff like this at times. She’s a fantastic girl and owns her style. Although she hates getting the “Most Likely to be a Leader” award at the end of every school year, she’s a leader. I love that she gets that award!

She’s been hoping for this nose piercing for six months or so. We’ve made her wait to evaluate this decision more fully. We agreed to her new piercing last week and began investigating how to make this happen. I naively assumed we’d go back to Clairs – the retail home of inexpensive jewelry and ear piercings. I have some experience with this place.

Turns out Clairs do not pierce noses. Or anything other than ears, for that matter. Tattoo shops are the place for nose holes. Who knew? I researched, found a place close to our home, and made the appointment. When we showed up, I basically knew what to expect. My daughter, not so much. Of course, the shop owner had no skin without a tattoo. His female counterpart was him in girl form, just with an additional dozen or so piercings.

Physically, the tattoo shop people didn’t look like me. They didn’t look like my daughter. I’m considering getting a tattoo, but I doubt I’ll have a sleeve soon. Or neck tattoos. Or forehead. Yet, I saw myself as I began talking with this fully tattooed and pierced shop owner.

And I don’t mean “spiritual as a brother in humanity” or something weird. This guy had skateboards and skate stickers from the 80s and 90s plastered all over the shop. I have that in my office. He had Halloween gear on display. I don’t display what I’ve got, but trust me, my attic has a few bins of Hollywood-quality masks and accessories. On his table sat an entire pack of Prismacolor pencils. I’m a non-practicing artist, but these same pencils were my weapon of choice in my art days. And he owns the shop. He’s an entrepreneur. Like me.

I am this tattoo shop owner. And he is me. I’m guessing we grew up in different circumstances. Had different opportunities and met other people. Our school choices might have been different. But at our core, deep down, we seemingly have everything in common.

The Problem

If I saw this guy on any sidewalk, I’d walk by, assuming he and I were nothing alike. I probably couldn’t imagine having so much as one conversation.

Oh, I forgot: He likes coffee and has been to my coffee shop several dozen times.

And I’ve never noticed him. I’ve never seen him. And I’ve never connected with him.