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Racism and Leadership

At the time of this post, George Floyd’s third and final funeral will be held in Houston, Texas in less than 24 hours.

Mr. Floyd’s death is the most recent of known acts of violence against people of color.

These heinous acts call out to all human decency and love to put a decided and determined end to such horrific stories.

Those of us on the sidelines have brimming eyes and swimming heads.

Of course we want to do something to stop these violent acts. But what can we do if we don’t see these type of situations take place?

I desired to know how I could help and made time to listen to friends who were willing to bear their souls. I cannot verbalize how grateful I am for their vulnerability.

I heard stories of “understanding my place” from the age of five. Five!

I heard voices surge as they described glimmers of hope for unity and equality, only to hear desperation creep back because it all seems a dream.

I heard differences in descriptions of children with subtle vocabulary choices, such as “that little boy is active (white),” versus “that little boy is aggressive (black).”

I heard fear as parents of black boys struggled with the reality they cannot protect their precious child when he goes out with friends as a teenager and beyond.

I heard helplessness as men voiced the realization they could not protect their family or themselves against assumptions other people made of them.

Hearing these visceral emotions is touching and heart-wrenching, and yet when we step into our daily world, we may be tempted to feel these stories are distant, something that only happens on big city streets and outside of our realm of influence.

But it isn’t.

Racism doesn’t happen “out there” - it happens where leaders are. Be the leader that stops it.

Racism happens in the kindergarten classroom, in a restaurant, in your neighborhood as people exercise in the morning, and in the workplace.

As leaders we have opportunities to speak and be visible. Because you have the ready-made platform of leadership, use it to intentionally and authentically fight against racism.

An authentic leader first and foremost is self-aware. In other words, an authentic leader has high emotional intelligence (EQ).

An authentic leader seeks to understand where their biases exist (we all have them), and then asks to be held accountable to overcoming those biases.

An authentic leader takes decided moves to eradicate racism within their sphere of influence by being open to feedback, looking to hear from colleagues outside of their culture, and intentionally incorporating and speaking equality.

Today’s world demonstrates this does not come naturally, but by intentionally choosing to eradicate racism within our reach, we can make a difference to someone.

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