“Leading is still very hard work.”

November 18, 20142 minute read

— From an essay by Karen B. Dunlap, one of five essays in the “Push for Parity” series published by the Poynter Institute on the progress of women in the field of journalism.

The essay continues, “Guiding people, upholding values, making wise decisions, responding when things go wrong, seeking solutions, all that is hard…Even when the leader’s intentions, skills and instincts are the best, someone will be let down…It’s nice to claim the job title; it’s better to enjoy the rewards of making a difference, still leadership is hard.”

As a top leader, Dunlap, who is African-American, still faces some challenging moments; for example walking into a reception that is overwhelmingly white and male. She writes, “Many of us try not to make a beeline to the only other two women or people of color in the room. I quickly learned to put on a big smile, stick out my hand and act like a politician as I approached someone whose body language says, ‘I don’t know you and don’t know what to say to you.’ Women and people of color as fellow leaders are still a new experience for some. Economic trends might suggest that many of us will remain ‘the other’ to those whose wealth allows them to isolate themselves. The question is will we as leaders seek to remove those walls for ourselves and others?”

The other lessons offered by Dunlap, President Emerita of The Poynter Institute who now teaches in the communications department at Tennessee State University, include