Equitable Leadership

DURING the pandemic, one of us became a bit of a Star Trek fan. Minal was never really into science fiction, but she ran out of shows to watch and found herself intrigued when Stacey Abrams, who is famously a Trekkie, said that Voyager was her favorite Star Trek show, even though Deep Space Nine is considered the political allegory. Still, Abrams cited Voyager, and we can’t help thinking it was because of Captain Janeway. In Voyager, women finally had a realistic representation of female leadership aboard a Star Trek vessel, one that was determined and decisive but also empathic and willing to listen.

Still, Janeway doesn’t seem like such a big deal until Minal had finished watching all the Voyager episodes and decided to dip into Star Trek: The Next Generation (referred to as TNG among Trekkies, we’re told). The first season is almost shocking in how Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard carries himself. He’s brash and bossy and vents his frustration by shouting at children, particularly poor Wesley. In Picard, the recent revival of the Star Trek franchise, it’s clear the character evolves since season one of TNG. But we don’t think Captain Janeway would need to evolve as much if they revived her character. In fact, she’s almost a prescient paragon of what good leadership looks like in the 21st century.

For decades, outdated models of Western leadership have prevailed, primarily centering White culture and male energy: someone who’s certain of himself, who has all the answers, who takes up space, shows no weakness, and knows how to win. But in a world turned upside down — by a pandemic, by climate change, by a reckoning with systemic injustice — what does winning even look like now?

Leaders have been getting an inkling that things are changing, that the old tools aren’t working. They have tried to lead their staff through these changes by emphasizing we are more alike than different, that anyone who works hard can succeed here, and have been befuddled when staff respond with outrage or anger.

So what exactly is going on?

The definition and expectations of leadership have changed. Talented staff no longer want a general leading them into battle; they want a coach nurturing the best out of each of them. They want someone with the courage to be vulnerable and say, “I don’t know, but I’m committed to figuring it out with you.”

They want an equitable leader. Someone who sees the system. Someone who is not tolerant of difference but rather so comfortable with it that they are willing to embrace it and make it a feature, not a bug of the workplace. They want someone who understands that great organizations encourage everyone to play to their strengths instead of insecurely asking everyone to fit into a mold of the “ideal” employee.

However, our brains are wired to feel threatened by difference. In The Power Manual, Cyndi Suarez writes:

The concept of difference is central to interactions in relationships of inequality. Humans have used differences to value, divide, and structure society—as with race, gender, class, age, and sexuality. One’s relationship to difference impacts one’s interactions, either reinforcing these structures of value or interrupting them. The supremacist approach to power offers two options for dealing with difference: ignore it or view it as cause for separation. A liberatory approach views differences as strengths and entertains interdependence as an option.

How does one begin to nurture a liberatory approach to power?

By examining your relationship to difference. Not surface-level differences—like a disagreement in approach or process to employ, the kind of difference that challenges your worldviews, your beliefs, and values. Leaders must navigate and embrace the latter to create inclusive and equitable environments where everyone thrives. And as Jessica has discovered through her work coaching leaders, this requires a higher degree of emotional intelligence, specifically, emotional self-awareness and the ability to self-regulate in the moment. The good news is you can build these muscles with intentional and consistent practice.

Normalizing discomfort for yourself and your organization is critical. Why? Because experiencing deep differences often equates to deep discomfort, which triggers your brain’s fight or flight mechanism. In this mode, critical reasoning goes offline. You react out of habit verse skillfully responding from a place of choice. The work of the equable leader is to thoughtfully respond in the face of discomfort and to demonstrate openness for deep difference.

Equitable leaders are also skilled at seeing systems and understanding interdependence. While valuing difference is the first step in the process of developing “system sight,” leaders can hone their vision by understanding their own relationship to the systems they are in. The tool Minal uses to facilitate this understanding with leaders is the Group Identity Wheel, developed by DEI practitioners and executive coaches Sukari Pinnock-Fitts and Amber Mayes. The wheel helps individuals understand themselves in all their complexity and positions their identity in relation to systems and power. It also allows them to understand both their marginalization and their privilege. This is vital to being an engaged and equitable leader. If a leader is interested in being an ally to people without the same level of privilege, then they must ask themselves, “How can I lift up the voices that may be struggling to be heard over mine in this organization?”

This can be uncomfortable, which is why emotional intelligence is critical, particularly the stamina to do difficult things. It can be tempting to duck one’s head in the sand and simply believe that the outside world will not intrude upon your company. But ignoring reality makes you a poor role model for the courageous conversations we need to have if we really want to design a more equitable world where everyone thrives.

* * *Leading ForumMinal Bopaiah is the author of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives. She is the founder of Brevity & Wit, a strategy + design firm that combines human-centered design, behavior change science and the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility to help organizations transform themselves and the world. Bopaiah has written for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Hill and has been a featured guest on numerous podcasts and shows, including the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU. She has also been a keynote speaker for many conferences, inspiring thousands with her credible, authentic, and engaging talks.
Jessica Zucal is a Senior Principal with Evans Consulting. As a change and transformation expert she works with leaders at the individual, team, and organization levels to build capacity for change and establish enabling conditions for success. Jessica is a NeuroLeadership trained coach and certified EQ-I 2.0 practitioner.

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People are Job 1 What It Takes to Lead

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Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Louis L’Amour on pausing to take stock of yourself and ask: Where am I going? What am I becoming? What do I wish to do and become?

“Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and movements and changes in the world about him; then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow. The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.”

Source: The Walking Drum

II.

Peter Drucker on personal responsibility:

“It is the mark of a mature person to ask: ‘What do I want to get out of life?’—and to know that one gets out only as much as one puts in. Tomorrow it will be the mark of a free person to ask: ‘What do I want to get out of organizations?’—and to know that one gets only as much as one puts in.”

Source: The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Entrepreneur and investor Sam Altman on the importance of value:

“All companies that grow really big do so in only one way: people recommend the product or service to other people.
What this means is that if you want to be a great company some day, you have to eventually build something so good that people will recommend it to their friends—in fact, so good that they want to be the first one to recommend it to their friends for the implied good taste. No growth hack, brilliant marketing idea, or sales team can save you long term if you don’t have a sufficiently good product.”

Source: The Only Way to Grow Huge

II.

East Rock Capital co-founder Graham Duncan on taking responsibility for your life:

“One great portfolio manager I know told the story of being driven somewhere by an analyst on a rainy night when a truck swerved and almost ran them off the road. ‘Why is stuff like this always happening to me?’ the analyst instinctively responded. But to the portfolio manager, that response reflected a terrible mindset, whether on the road or in the market: a sense that the world is acting on you as opposed to your acting on the world. It is a mindset that is hard to change. But from what I’ve seen, great investors don’t have it. Instead, they’ve come to understand which factors in the market they can control and which factors they cannot.”

Source: The Playing Field

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Look for these ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog. Find more ideas on the LeadingThoughts index.

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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All You Have to Do Is Ask

All You Have to Do Is Ask

IF WE ARE HONEST with ourselves, we know there are times we need help. We just don’t want to ask for it. We’re confident we can figure it out. In time.

But here’s the thing. There’s nothing we are going through or trying to figure out that others haven’t blazed a trail for us already. We just need to ask.

Wayne Baker says, “you never know what people know—or who they know—until you ask. Asking for help can mean the difference between success and failure.” In All You Have to Do Is Ask he identifies eight reasons why we don’t or won’t ask. As a result, we leave a lot of answers, solutions and resources on the table for no good reason. And here are eight no good reasons:

We underestimate other people’s willingness and ability to help
We over-rely on self-reliance
We perceive there to be social costs of seeking help
Our work culture lacks psychological safety
The systems, procedures, or structure of our organization get in our way
We don’t know what to request or how to request it
We worry we haven’t earned the privilege of asking for help
We fear seeming selfish

That last reason—the fear of seeming selfish—relates to the proverb that it’s better to give than receive. That’s true. We want to be givers, but that doesn’t make receiving a bad thing. “There’s no giving without receiving, and there is no receiving without giving. And it’s the request that starts the wheel turning.”

Baker offers a quick scientific assessment in the book (or online) to determine what style of asking/giving you tend to choose. And it is a choice. Are you an overgenerous giver, a selfish taker, a lone wolf, or a giver-requester? These types al represent “choices you can make about how you want to operate in the world.”

Asking Giving Scale

The place to begin is to understand and articulate your needs. Know what you are trying to accomplish and when. With that in mind, formulate a SMART request. That is a Specific (“a specific request yields more help than a vague one”), Meaningful (“Why is the request important to you?”), Action-oriented (What action do you want to be taken?), Realistic (it may be a serious long-shot, but within the realm of possibility), and Time-bound (“ every request should have a due date”) request.

After you have formulated your request, you need to figure out who to ask. Who knows what you need to know or who you need to talk to? Go outside your usual circle of contacts. Then ASK. And a good piece of advice: “Rejection is just an opinion. And opinions change. In other words, you can find ways to turn a no into a yes.”

Baker offers much more specific advice and examples throughout but let me mention two tools that have proven effective that Wayne Baker and Adam Grant have developed. The first is Reciprocity Rings.

Reciprocity Rings

A Reciprocity Ring is a group activity consisting of 20 or so people that gather together and share a request with the group one by one. “Other members of the group pause to consider how they could help: Do I have the resource the person needs? Of not, do I know someone in my network who might be able to help? Because it’s much easier for people to make a request when they know that everyone must make one, every participant is required to make a request; asking is the ‘ticket of admission’ to the Reciprocity Ring.”

Reciprocity Rings have been implemented successfully at Google, General Motors, IBM, Citigroup, UPS, and others.

Givitas

Givitas is a collaborative technology platform that provides a sf platform for requesting, giving, and receiving help across boundaries across a vast scale. It helps you share widely beyond the usual suspects.

Platforms like Givitas allow people to get what they need without having to repeatedly tap all the same experts or all the usual go-to people because requests are decentralized and broadcast across the vast network.

Thanks For Asking

We’ve all asked for help only to be rebuffed or made to look stupid. Of course, we recognize and reward people for giving help, but we don’t typically reward people for asking for help. “How our request is received, how we are treated, and how the help is granted determines whether we get discouraged, or encouraged to make asking a personal practice.”

With both organizational and individual success at stake, we need to rethink our responses to asking. “Recognizing, appreciating, and rewarding those who ask is as critical as doing the same for those who answer.”

Baker shares informal and formal ways we can as individuals and organizations recognize, reward, and encourage asking. Asking improves individual performance and effectiveness.

All You Have to Do Is Ask will change your appreciation of asking. It certainly changed my view.

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Give and Take Positive Leadership

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twitter
twitter Here are a selection of tweets from May 2019 that you don’t want to miss:

Leadership and Groundhog Day from @wallybock
Here are some ways to improve retention that are more effective than simplistic employee satisfaction surveys.
Bill Buckner: A Man Of Grace from @JohnBaldoni
3 Ways to Prevent a Mis-Performance Meltdown by @WScottCochrane
Five Common Communication Mistakes (And How to Fix Them) via @StanfordGSB
Artificial Intelligence for the Perplexed Executive vis @StanfordGSB
Making Noise: 3 Tips for Better Leading in a Noisy World by Ken Downer @RapidStartLdr
The World in 2030: Nine Megatrends to Watch by Andrew S. Winston via @mitsmr
3 Surprising Ways To Start A Strong Leadership Day by @WScottCochrane
Help! I want to pitch VCs but don’t want anyone stealing my idea by @maynard
A Surprising Example Of Why You Don’t Need A Title To Effectively Lead Others by @TanveerNaseer Nailed it.
This Is The Reason Most People Get Stuck In Mediocrity by @LaRaeQuy
15 Quotes by Mary Parker Follett – Guidance for Today’s World by @JesseLynStoner
Advice for the Graduating Class of 2019 by @michaelaroberto
7 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Leadership Coach by @LollyDaskal
How Big Tech Threatens Economic Liberty via @amconmag Under the current power dynamics, entrepreneurs are often faced with two options: sell out or get crushed.
Coach John Beilein Takes His Game To A New Level from @JohnBaldoni
How Leaders Make the Best Ideas Work via @LetsGrowLeaders
Why Men Don’t Have Friends and Why Women Should Care by @JesseLynStoner
Sometimes You Need To Dial Back Your Aspirations! from @JohnBaldoni
“Right now, it’s like this” is an invitation to explore what is present. It reassures us that impermanence is hard at work. Even though the mind threatens me with the idea that “it’s going to be like this forever,” this phrase helps me call BS on that.”
Roadmap: Five Phases of Digital Eras by @jowyang
On American college campuses, history has been declining in popularity more rapidly than any other major.
Establishing Trust: Why the Details Matter by @RapidStartLdr Ken Downer
What is the difference between brand and marketing? by @lindsaycpederse

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Great Leaders Have No Rules 36 Lessons from Coach Bill Campbell

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Who Will Lead Us Tomorrow?

Lead Us Tomorrow
WE ARE RAISING TODAY, the men and women who will lead us tomorrow. It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. It should be done with forethought and with a consideration of the kind of world we hope they and we will live in when it’s their turn to lead.
Developing leaders places a huge responsibility on us today that goes beyond telling those future leaders what we think. To develop leaders, we must not only envision the leaders we want tomorrow, but we must behave in the manner of the leaders we want to see.
We may not like the leadership or lack of it that we see today, but if our reaction to anything we don’t like is anger, outrage, hatred, and vicious rhetoric, we are endorsing those values by way of example. Unwittingly, we perpetuate hatred, outrage, and vulgarity in the leaders of tomorrow. They learn to lead by watching us “lead.”
Martin Luther King succeeded because he calmly but passionately painted a picture of a world that appealed to our morality. He shared a positive idea to replace a negative idea without attacking other people. His example had moral weight. He was silenced by hatred. Hatred and anger is an idea without reason—it’s unreasonable—a rudderless opinion with no foundation.
We must be the leaders we want to see developed in the generations that follow us. If you want leaders who listen, who are understanding, compassionate, civil, and respectful, then we must display those values in our dealings with what we see happening around us. If not, we are the problem. If we want others to respect us and listen to us, we must respectfully listen to them. We talk when we should be listening.
If we believe people should be respectful of each other, then we must be those people. Returning in kind is tempting and sometimes funny, but it does nothing but add to the discord we see around us. Real leaders resist the temptation and rise above it. Our response should be one that is conscious and empathetic of the other person’s frustration and often misplaced angst. To do anything else only adds to the destructive division we see today.
Real leaders connect, they don’t divide. They focus on similarities, not differences. We often think that if I don’t yell, I won’t be heard, but we aren’t heard because we are yelling. The most strident voice is not the leader. Harsh words do not connect with others. “Blood in the streets” is not a mature response to disagreement.
When we become the leaders we should be, those that follow will learn to lead the way they should. As we learn and grow, those around us will learn and grow. We are modeling now the kind of leadership we will have in the future.
American poet Edwin Markham’s poem captures the need for us to grow into the leaders we want others to be:
We are all blind until we see
—That in the human plan
Nothing is worth the making if
—It does not make the man.
Why build these cities glorious
—If man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the work, unless
—The builder also grows.
If we want our children to be intentional about their lives, we must too be intentional about ours with the end in mind—with the consequences of our personal behavior in mind. Meaningful lives are built; they don’t just happen. If we want them to be adults, we must act like adults. We are shaping the character of future leaders today. We must resolve to be the leaders we wish to see.
What will our future leaders be like? Who will lead us tomorrow? What legacy are we leaving for our children? We only need to look at ourselves.
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