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Today is IDAHOBIT: International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Although it is a day of remembrance and reflection, we put forward the option to inspire.

We present our new column: RAHM Insights, by David Holthöwer. David is a member of the RAHM Leadership Council, and will be writing monthly for our RAHM Spotlight. By addressing the main purposes of RAHM such as LGBTIQ+ leadership and Diversity & Inclusion, David’s new column will inspire our community and call to action.

LGBTIQ+ Leadership – a real difference or just a touch of pink?

On March 30th we had our first RAHM Leadership Council meeting online. It was the first time the participants could look at each other’s faces- if only via camera- and discuss why they are joining and what they would like to bring in for a more diverse and inclusive society and business environment. We first had a little introduction cycle before we moved on to work in virtual break-out rooms and performed group work on how to attract people to get into contact with the RAHM Leadership Council regarding all relevant topics with focus on leadership and people development. It is one of the crucial responsibilities of the RAHM Leadership Council to be visible as role models.

We all agreed that we must definitely spread our work via media platforms and our network to be recognized as a contact point for all LGBTIQ+ leaders- out or not. Still remember- only appr. 30% of LGBTIQ+ employees are OUT at the workplace. Most people are still afraid of discrimination, less career opportunities or even hate- and this is devastating. We want to build up the trust in us that many LGBTIQ+ leaders miss in their daily life environment. Trust- which is a very good connection to leadership in general.

The question is: “Is LGBT+ leadership a real difference- or just a touch of pink?”

Of course this choice of words is a little controversial, but we want to start a discussion, not providing a fixed model or concept. Leadership is as individual as everyone is. And the most important thing is, it needs to be authentic. You cannot copy the leadership style of another person, that deems successful to you. From my point of view, leadership is something you have inside yourself or not- you cannot really “learn” how to lead, but you can develop and strengthen the skills that are necessary to be a good leader. “You hire for attitude, not skills. You can always teach skills” (citation by Simon Sinek). And that’s very true- leadership is not really a skill, it is a kind of a development process for yourself and your team members and a two site’s learning experience.

The most important thing in leadership is empathy. This word concludes everything of the basic requirements to lead others: listen carefully to others, link behavior to emotion, know your team’s motivation factors and accept people as they are- with all their talents and development areas. This implies that you have a good feeling for the mood, situation and challenges in your team. I think that people are looking for leaders who appreciate honest and open feedback in both directions to grow and to develop, which leads us again back to trust. If your people become quiet you should be alarmed. If you are not able to make your people feel comfortable- and I mean especially in times of trouble not only in times of pure success- you will never be able to build a real team! Empathy and authentic leadership, where you act as a role model for the values you stand for are crucial to be recognized as a leader. Because a real leader wants to bring out the best of everybody in one’s team. And here LGBT+ leaders can make the difference.

We all have our life history, good and bad experiences, which became part of our personality. When we talked within the RAHM leadership council of our different life paths it was impressive to hear these stories, some were depressing, some were about strongly winding roads, others were optimistic and full of energy- all in all, each of those stories could really encourage others, as they reflect individuality and link them with experience other leaders might find themselves in. A lot of stories face discriminating situations, fear to be oneself, denying one’s own personality and even depression. In the end all of the leaders made their way through it- also in very different ways- which makes it so fascinating and motivating for others. From my point of view that is the difference LGBT+ leaders can bring into leadership. Due to the personal experience there is a high sense for people’s feelings and their visual presence of the value to fight for “being the best version of oneself” it can motivate others to get into contact and get support in specific leadership questions. This might also help to have a good feeling for one’s team spirit and the flow inside the group to be able to proactively influence the team’s actions. We want to make a real difference in leadership with individual creativity and expertise, because good leadership is not “nice to have”, it is the focal point to be successful as a real team where everybody feels as a unique part of the puzzle. This is our responsibility and our goal as RAHM Leadership Council! And we will constantly work on earning the communities trust.

Next steps will be to further work on a communication strategy and share via various media channels. Stay tuned and wait for the next post!

About the writer


David Holthöwer is a member of the RAHM Leadership Council. Working as an Associate Director Pharmacist in Hesse (Germany), he is part of the Communication Committee of our Council.

Know more about the RAHM Leadership Council here.

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