Last week, Amanda Gorman became a worldwide sensation after reciting her poem The Hill We Climb at Joe Biden’s inauguration.
She exhilarated viewers with her vision, spirit, confidence and eloquence and shared an important lesson on how to find hope and resolve for the year ahead.
In this case study, we take a look at her leadership qualities, what we can learn from them and why she should be the future President!
After an agonising and turbulent year, Amanda wrote a poem full of hopeful messages including:
“And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us…
The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light”
Amanda radiated joy and conviction and spread her enthusiastic vision across the globe. In an exceptionally difficult moment, she was an exceptional individual spreading a message about growth and opportunity.
In December 2020, she noted:
“I’ve come to realise that hope isn’t something you ask of others. It’s something you must first give to yourself.”
In this past year, any optimism has often been downplayed and people are quick to tell you that the “lockdown won’t be lifted any time soon” or “it will take the economy years to recover”. And while it is important to manage and shift your expectations during these events, it is also a strength to be hopeful for the future.
As Amanda details in her poem, it’s important to find the light and hope in ourselves and put our own aspirations and values first when we plan for the future.
She envisions a new, brighter chapter and spoke with such resonance and force that it’s hard for us not to think more confidently about our own roles and future.
2. Generation Z Mindset
It’s hard to steal the show at a Presidential inauguration, especially with fellow performers like Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Katy Perry. But that is exactly what Amanda did. She was the star performer, speaking with such assurance and intelligence that left many surprised by her young age.
At the inauguration of a 78-year old President, it was the voice of the New Generation that was heard. She made us pause and think about the future and our place in it.
There is a lot we can learn from Gen Z...
As a whole, they are more socially conscious and politically astute than generations before them. They also have a greater understanding of the importance of sustainability and a determination to leave the environment in a better place than they found it.
Often, they are more tolerant and open-minded of others than we were at their age and there is less of a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ attitude and more of a ‘Fight Injustice and Affect Change’ one.
Amanda highlighted that great leaders don’t need years of experience to inspire others and there is no age requirement for wisdom. She radiated purpose and conviction with every word of her powerful message and showed a level of emotional maturity many never reach.
One key lesson we can learn from Amanda is that wisdom comes from spending less time thinking about the mechanics of the world and more time understanding how it makes us feel.
3. Seeing the Strength in Yourself
Everyone faces challenges in their lives - whether they are the small daily struggles or huge hurdles that take years to overcome. Our mentality and the way we approach these challenges is what sets people - especially leaders - apart.
Amanda has an auditory processing disorder and had a speech impediment during childhood. She also described her young self as a “weird child” (The New York Times, 2018) and has spoken about not being able to pronounce ‘R’s up until recently.
She trained herself to sing “Aaron Burr, Sir” from Hamilton, a song “packed with R’s” saying
“If I can train myself to do this song, then I can train myself to say this letter.”
Instead of framing her auditory journey as overcoming an obstacle, Amanda instead chose to highlight how this strengthened her storytelling skills.
She told The Harvard Gazette:
"I always saw it as a strength because since I was experiencing these obstacles in terms of my auditory and vocal skills, I became really good at reading and writing.”
Her mindset is refreshingly positive and she sees the gift and strength in something often associated as an imperfection.
4. Potential & Ambition
When Amanda’s grandmother was born, black women still couldn’t vote. Now, she has spoken openly about her intention to become president in 2036.
Seeing the potential in yourself or the potential in those around you (no matter their age) is not only uplighting and motivating, but can be a powerful tool for change. You can see the possibilities of what is yet to come, challenge the status quo and push the boundaries to make things better.
Like the best leaders, Amanda is aware of her own potential and has taken active steps to achieve the very best she can.
We should never underestimate the power of potential and as some of us are looking for our next roles or to pivot careers, it is important to recognise what our offering will be 10 years, 5 years, or even 6 months from now.
5. Taking Inspiration From Role Models
Amanda has inspired many across the globe and with her being so purposeful, so young and so interested in politics and changing the world for the better - this can only be a good thing.
Role models are vital to our career development and journey. It’s clear that Amanda’s own role models - Maya Angelou and Malala Yousafzai - have had a profound impact on her. Angelou showed her it was possible for a black, female poet to inspire millions with her poetry (Angelou also recited a poem to a new president on the Capitol steps, Bill Clinton in 1993). And Yousafzai showed Amanda that young people have just as much of a right and responsibility to affect change and call for justice.
There’s no limit to how many role models you can have and taking inspiration from different people encourages motivation and diverse thinking.
There should always be one individual who inspires you… You!
I’ve spoken a lot in the article about being hopeful for your future and understanding your potential. Amanda epitomises this and it is true no matter your career path. Set out goals you want to achieve and use them to drive your present day self.