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King of my heart

King of my heart

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As the Decider in Chief leads us into the abyss and misfortune continues to hump our leg, I have been thinking about leadership. For me it's a cardio thing. My dear girlfriend gave me the latest iPod in the fond hope that I would get off the 8-track and onto the treadmill. I have 186 songs so far, but it's the audiobooks I love. At the gym, I've listened to books about the leaders George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. While others on their treadmills pop to hip-hop, I've been known to stop and shriek, like some Paula Revere, "The British have taken New Jersey!" before I fly off the back end of the treadmill.

As more and more retired military generals reveal the arrogant lack of preparedness and "strategery" of Rumsfeld and his boys, I sound like Joan Cusack from In & Out, screaming at Kevin Kline after he tells her he's gay at their wedding: "Was there, oh, any other time you might have told me this?"

For real leadership, I think I prefer the King. Billie Jean, that is. Though HBO's Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer had a bit too much of her ex-husband, Larry King (not the one with suspenders and the extra row of bottom teeth), for my taste, it gave us the best portrait yet of how Billie Jean got to be the leader she is today. But seeing the scope of what she's done over the years, we can all take some leadership pointers from her life story.

Lead from where you are and from what you love. Billie worked for equal pay for women in tennis, the game she loved, with the same brilliant, competitive strategy she used on the court.

Reach out to your rivals as assets and allies. Billie saw that the new darling of tennis, Chris Evert, could help in her quest to popularize women's tennis as a legitimate contender in the sports world.

Admit your mistakes. Billie admitted, in what must have been an excruciating press conference, that, yes, she had had an affair with a woman when she was married. Then she went back to work.

Make connections. Billie never fails to connect race and class with gender as a practical matter of justice.

Keep your message simple. Billie's definition of feminism as "equality for girls and boys" cuts through acres of ridicule and verbiage. Since we all need to rethink and retool our strategies for achieving full LGBT equality, one of my favorite Kingisms is "Champions adjust."

Once when I was whining to Billie about some new show I was struggling with, she quietly reminded me, "Kate, pressure is a privilege."

Lead on, my King! And damned be him that first cries, "Hold, enough!" n

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Kate Clinton