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What Prince Taught Us About Leadership

By April 28, 20162 Comments

By Zarateman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0


Authenticity – that’s the word that comes to mind as I mourn the death of Prince.

Watching every news outlet, every radio station, every friend pay homage to this musical legend, I was reminded what leading is all about: authentically sharing ourselves in a life-affirming way with all those we come into contact with.

I came to an understanding of my own genderqueerness in the era of funk and glam rock, when artists like Queen, David Bowie, and Prince were pushing the boundaries of gender and self-expression.

From the very first moment I experienced Prince, I yelled “hallelujah!” inside. I was thrilled to see a black, (somewhat) male-identified person with straightened hair in heels, makeup, and tight shimmering clothing singing, “Am I black or white, am I straight or gay? … Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?”

Prince was someone who refused to label himself, giving me and others the power to do the same. Prince didn’t have to shout out proclamations, or ask me to sign a petition. He didn’t need to tell me what to do, or ask me to follow him. He simply shared his beliefs, and I evolved as I listened.

Reflecting on his life also reminded me of the pain living inauthentically can cause. How we can torture ourselves trying to live by a made-up “normal” even if it kills us on the inside. Or trying to rework systems that oppress and cripple so many of us when, in fact, they should be obliterated.

Prince was not exempt from real-life pains and challenges, but rather than diminishing my appreciation, it helps me. It shows the complexity of authenticity, and the truth that authenticity is not about perfection. It’s about bringing your full self to the world, flaws and all.

I hope a quick review of Prince’s music and life will be a reminder for you, too, of the sacredness of authenticity, self-expression, sex and love, and the strength and power in living out loud. A reminder that leading means being you first and foremost, and sharing you with us. We need you, your voice, your acts of love to continue to transform this world.

Thanks Prince! May we all be changed yet again in your death. Waves of love to you, my comrade in self-exploration. Thanks for helping me reshape my world.

In gratitude,

April 2016


  • Eileen Hazel says:

    This is really a beautiful tribute, Darlene!

  • Rosalie says:

    Thank you for this, beautifully said and beautifully lived by Prince. May he reign forever as our Purple Prince.



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