Have you ever felt an incredible desire to change something at work or in your personal life but backed down because it just seemed too hard?
Some of my biggest regrets were times I retreated from taking on increasing levels of responsibility in leadership roles, usually turning them down because I didn’t feel like I had the skills, the backing, the time or the energy.
I guess that’s why the movie, “The Help” strikes a chord within me. Each time I’ve seen it, I feel more inspired and uplifted by the messages of courage and transformation.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Right’s Movement, the story revolves around a very strong and resilient group of women who fight the status quo of the domestic servitude, the culture they were born into.
The character that resonates with me the most is Abileen, a black maid who belongs to a long line of women who’ve raised dozens of children born to repressive white socialites. She teaches these children the values of appreciation, respect and unconditional love, virtues that are not reciprocated by the families she serves.
Abileen desperately wants to speak up against the manipulation, intimidation and abuse she and her community have endured, especially after her 24-year-old son dies as a result of negligence at the hands of her oppressors. But she hesitates. She pushes down her desire to take initiative for fear of repercussions.
Abileen is what I call a reluctant leader.
When Skeeter, an aspiring journalist and rebellious white socialite approaches her to tell her story, at first Abileen won’t even consider it. She fears speaking out against the people she and her family have been working for generations. She’s afraid of what they might do.
But most importantly, she’s afraid no one will be listen. She’s been treated as if she were invisible all her life.
When she does start writing and sharing her stories, she finds she has a voice and powerful lessons to share too. She starts talking with her community, women who have supported each other in hardship and celebration. She has conviction and inspires them. They want to join her too.
They want to expose the travesties they have endured at the hands of their oppressors — exposing them for who they are. They want to be heard.
Without even realizing, Abileen becomes the leader within her community by taking the first step to share her stories. She then empowers them by creating the vehicle to join forces and speak up for what they know is right.
Together, they create a movement that has power and energy to change not only the way they are treated but the way others around the country are treated too.
In this clip, Abileen is seen owning her voice as a writer and standing up to the lead antagonist in the movie and her manipulative tactics.
As Abileen’s preacher says, “Courage isn’t just about being brave. It’s about overcoming fear and daring to do what is right for your fellow man.”
This is how reluctant leaders change the world.
It starts with the willingness to stand up for what you believe and know is right for you, your people, your community, your followers.
How about you? What’s your first step?