In recent weeks and months, we have mourned the senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. I am shaken over these acts of violence and have been moved to tears by the oppression people of color continue to experience in our country. Hate and racism are simply wrong. Racial inequity and injustice are real and cannot be ignored. The fact that we have not dealt with racial injustice in America is simply unacceptable.
Like many of you, my emotions have ranged from outrage to anger, from discouragement to desperation, from fear to helplessness. I even struggled with words to share on my own behalf about how to speak to these events. However, silence is not leadership, especially when facing turmoil and crisis. We, as leaders, have the opportunity and urgent calling to step up and lead. Our black friends and colleagues are experiencing deep pain and grief. And now, more than ever we must stand with them as gracious and strong leaders.
But how do we find our footing and how do we get started? How do we find our voices and impact a world where we will be proud of our people, our principles and our culture? I believe it starts with a Gracious and Strong leadership style. This leadership style is a three-part framework that’s designed to help leaders pursue a higher calling in who they are and who they lead. It requires them to take three steps — ‘lead with the heart, lead with the mind, and lead with respect’.
I believe that we all (including myself) can take a Gracious and Strong approach to how we live and lead in these turbulent times. Here’s how:
Leading with the Heart requires us to:
Have Courage – Step forward and lead from the front. Confront what you do not understand and engage in the tough conversations that will ultimately reveal a path forward.
Care & Show It – Ensure that you see, care and respond to those you are entrusted to lead. Be authentic in your words and actions. Demonstrate empathy, compassion and belief in all people.
Inspire – Encourage the exchange of solutions and actions that address the root of the problem. Bring people together to be partners in developing solutions. Maintain your energy; you must demonstrate your steadfast belief in a better future.
Leading with the Mind requires us to:
Look Ahead – Dwell in opportunity and possibility. Give words and vision to a future that fosters hope, physical and psychological safety and the ability to thrive.
Shift Your Focus – Channel the creative energy of yourself and those you influence to believe in a future that is better for all; a future that fosters equity and inclusion.
Fuel Purpose – Connect with the desire inside us all to be part of something greater than ourselves. Feed our fundamental need to matter and to be part of something that matters.
Leading with Respect requires us to:
Be Present – Be visible, be available, invest the time and do the hard work of earning trust.
Defend Dignity – Muster the courage to stand and defend all people and refrain from being a by-stander. Defend the dignity that every human being deserves because they matter and because they are important.
Add Value – Hold yourself and others accountable for their actions. Monitor the progress being made over time. Do not allow complacency to stifle progress and real, meaningful long-term change.
We, and I, have a role to play in creating a more fair and just country. This is a time for deep, systemic change and I am committing to be a part of the positive change. Here are just a few key action steps I am personally committed to taking to make a difference through my platform and in my sphere of influence.
I commit to…
- Educating myself — I’ll admit, there so many aspects of the harsh realities black Americans live with that I have simply failed to understand. I plan to stay curious and educate myself further about the root causes of injustice, the biggest infractions, and how I can make a difference as a white leader in corporate America who has benefited from centuries of inequality. I want to know where the biggest pain points are and how we can make the biggest impact to address change.
- Hosting conversations on my own platforms — I will be featuring deep meaningful conversations with people who look different than me through my blog and other upcoming platforms. I have a strong list of incredible black colleagues who I want to continue learning from as well as share their knowledge with my own followers.
- Providing solutions beyond unconscious bias training — I will provide resources and solutions for how company leaders can provide strong solutions that go beyond unconscious bias trainings and other marginal solutions that have made no real change to improve systemic racism. I’ll provide solutions that go deeper with creating long-lasting systemic change, equity and justice for people of color.
- Investing — I will invest my time, my dollars and my energy toward organizations I believe will bring real change for equity so that racial justice is truly achieved.
These are just a few of the ways I’d like to make a difference in my own sphere of influence. But more importantly, I want to hear from you. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts on how I can make a real difference and create lasting change through my platform.