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  • Liz Cruz

Embracing Your Unique Queer Leadership Style

"I Feel Like a Unicorn in the Ocean"


The other day, my client said to me: “I feel like I’m a unicorn in the ocean or something.”


As in…


“The people around me can’t see me as I really am.”


“I work with a lot of people who will never ‘get’ my gender.”


“It’s hard to trust that I’ll be valued if I show up as myself.”


OOF. 


If you’ve ever felt like that…you’re not alone, friend. This phrase hit me hard because it gives such a powerful image to the things I hear all the time from queer leaders.

In a professional landscape where the drive to conform often overshadows uniqueness, queer leaders frequently find ourselves in this exact situation—radiant, rare, and…out of our element. How can we thrive in environments and work communities that don’t know how to recognize us?


We have to be clear and certain about who we are and how we want to show up as leaders.


And no, I’m not saying “just be your authentic self, bring all of that to work, and everything will be great!” That approach isn’t available to all of us.


I’m talking about: 


  • Knowing your values

  • Understanding your leadership philosophy, and how to operate in integrity with that philosophy

  • Doing the inner work to fortify your complete belief in yourself and your leadership

This is complex, ongoing work, and while I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all solution here (how BORING would that be anyway?!), I’ve got a couple of exercises to get you started.


I had a GPT create this collage-style image for me. It’s a unicorn in the ocean, surrounded by waves and all sorts of ocean creatures. And because it’s AI, it’s REAL WEIRD. Are those birds, or fish? Why is there a mushroom? Why does that one ocean animal sort of look like a pug? I’m in love with how bizarre it is.
I had a GPT create this collage-style image for me. It’s a unicorn in the ocean, surrounded by waves and all sorts of ocean creatures. And because it’s AI, it’s REAL WEIRD. Are those birds, or fish? Why is there a mushroom? Why does that one ocean animal sort of look like a pug? I’m in love with how bizarre it is.


Know Your Values


If you’ve never done a values clarification exercise before, it’s time. And if you’ve done one in the past but it’s been a while…this is a great opportunity to check in on how your values might have shifted as you’ve developed in your leadership.


You can grab my values clarification tool here!



Understand Your Leadership Philosophy


Ok, realistically, this is a MUCH bigger project than it is a simple exercise, but a great place to start is by just…starting! Grab your journal and give yourself 5 minutes to freewrite on what you believe about leadership. Sounds simple, but if you let it flow a LOT of great stuff can come out of this reflection. (This is usually where I start when I’m working with a client on writing their Leadership Manifesto)


When you’re done with your reflection, consider sharing with a friend, colleague, or another leader whose feedback you value - or get in touch with me! I’d love to hear what you come up with.



Doing the Inner Work


When we’re leading, it’s never just one person in the room. Our fears and doubts are there with us, as are our inner critics, our inner children who need our most tender care, and more. That means beyond being clear on our leadership values, philosophy, and practices, we have to tend to our selves.


You deserve a space to explore your leadership challenges with someone who gets you. Obviously, I’m a big believer in the value of leadership coaching 😉, but what’s important is that you find the supports that work for you. If you want to check out what coaching is all about, I invite you to schedule a consultation with me, or join a group coaching session as a guest. (Both are FREEEEEE!)


For now, what I want you to know is this: 


When you feel like “a unicorn standing in the ocean,” remember that you might be surrounded by folks who can’t understand you, but you ARE, in fact, a unicorn…and that’s pretty awesome. There is nothing in this world that can change your inherent worth, your humanity, or the beauty of what’s in your heart.

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