I recently wrote this post for A Career that Soars! my online community for women leaders at every level. My reflections for some time have been centred on what it means to me to be a leader and ally in troubled times after the murder of George Floyd in the U.S. and the justified outrage by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia. Black/Blak Lives do matter to me, but like many other non-black people, I have chosen to listen to learn more about how to be a better leader and ally to all People of Colour.
Being an inclusive and effective leader and ally is essential. I hope you find my brief reflection and hints helpful.
For the People of Colour in my network, I am sorry.
A Leader Combatting Injustice
Combatting injustice is deeply embedded in the way I live and lead.
These past weeks of civil unrest in the U.S. after the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protest marches in Australia by our First Nations people have been incredibly difficult for me to simply observe. I am typically a leader and try to be an ally that takes action immediately to right the wrongs I see.
I am told that I am a powerful and influential leader, along with being someone who ‘gets it’ when it comes to allyship . Yet at this time, I feel powerless, not at all influential and bewildered about how I could be better as an ally. That is difficult. Then I reflected further, People of Colour feel this way more often than I do. So time to stop feeling powerless and bewildered. Its time to start empathising more, learning more and sharing more, about how important leadership and allyship is in troubled times.
Empathy During Troubled Times
Given my cultural heritage (Anglo-Celtic), my relative affluence and geographical location (Australia), I empathise with the affected people in the U.S. as well as our affected communities here in Australia. I am fuelling my empathy by making a commitment to understand more deeply the experiences that black Americans and Aboriginal Australians have endured along with their justified feelings of rage after centuries of oppression. I must expand this deeper understanding and empathy to People of Colour in my network.
However, empathy isn’t all I have to offer as a leader and an ally. I can take action. I hope as leaders and allies you will too.
Actions for Leadership & Allyship In the Workplace
- Make space for your teams to discuss the issue of racial injustice;
- Check on your colleagues who are People of Colour, don’t assume they’re ok (read this first);
- Talk about, advocate for and promote more Women of Colour, that doesn’t happen enough;
- Join or start a diversity council in your workplace;
- Ensure the organisation specifically calls out a zero-tolerance for racism in the employee Code of Conduct – in Australia, also having a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in place;
- Ensure the organisation has a diversity policy that applies to supply chain and supplier panels;
- Ensure that your workplace giving includes donations to organisations that support Aboriginal People or People of Colour;
- Check if your company websites and social media feed include images of your employees and customers who are People of Colour (not just stock images either!)
Actions for Leadership and Allyship in Life
- Understand the concept of your privilege and educate others about it;
- Be an upstander – call out injustice, racism and discrimination when it occurs;
- Learn more about Aboriginal Culture and History
- Learn about the Uluru Statement from the Heart
- Expand and diversify your reading material and social media networks to include more voices and opinions from People of Colour;
- Expand and diversify your ‘in-person’ networks by being intentional about including People of Colour;
- Be more conscious to make purchases from Aboriginal-owned businesses or businesses that are owned by People of Colour.
The Lifelong Journey
We are all on a lifelong journey to leadership mastery, so the learning never stops. I’ve reflected that I still have much to learn. I’d really appreciate your contributions and your suggested actions so that all of us can be more skilled at leading and better allies in troubled times.
I have written this article on the lands of the Waddawarrung People and I acknowledge them as Traditional Owners. I also pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and Aboriginal Elders of other communities who may visit this site and read this article.