What We Can All Learn From Saffiyah Khan

Saffiyah Khan catapulted into social media stardom this weekend as images of her insouciantly staring down a belligerent far-right protester graced screens across the globe. The image was snapped moments after Khan stepped in to defend another counter-protester, Saira Zafar. Khan felt compelled to intervene when angry protesters encircled Zafar, who wears a hijab. In addition to being the subject of a visually astounding image, Khan evokes a number of leadership qualities that women everywhere can emulate.

Khan beautifully demonstrates fearlessness in standing up for what is right. Following your moral compass isn’t always easy (sometimes it’s downright terrifying). But when your conviction prevails like Khan’s did, you stand to make a powerful impact while garnering respect too.

The viral photo by Press Association photographer Joe Giddens

In the dog-eat-dog race to the top, it’s easy to lose sight of compassion and solidarity with others. Khan doesn’t hesitate to come to Zafar’s defense and support. In the male-dominated workplace, it’s not enough if you’re the only woman on the board. It might be great for you, but it doesn’t help the greater cause unless you leverage your influence to lift others up, disrupt white male hegemony and restore the natural balance. Those who are in it for themselves are simply playing into the existing structures that have historically oppressed women and other marginalized people.

Khan’s poise and composure in stark contrast to the protester’s concerted effort to look tough cannot be overstated. Her stance conveys confidence and, as MP Jess Phillips observes, a position of greater power and authority than the young woman’s adversary. Khan serenely keeps her cool and thus the upper hand, a valuable lesson for any aspiring leader, male or female.

 

 

By: Frances Lai