Lead or Step Aside

You don’t have the luxury of sitting this out.

Leading Through Injustice

Starting with COVID-19, leading to a global recession, and now national protests over police brutality and racism, to say the first half of 2020 has been challenging would be an immense understatement. The stress everyone is under is extraordinary. Watching the protests, and the response has been infuriating, and it is time for all of us to say and do something about it. The murder of George Floyd was wrong The murder of countless other innocent black Americans was unconscionable, sitting idly, while an entire race fights to live is wrong and we can no longer look away without taking action.

None of us has all the facts. This uncertainty is where leaders live. We’re used to making decisions with less than perfect information because it’s often the best we can get. We use the pieces we know to form an impression and to create a directional guide until we can get more concrete information. In this case, and so many like it, the pattern of injustice is clear.

Things are broken. They are broken and we don’t have a clear way to fix them. We know what we’re seeing play out is wrong and so do our employees. While most employees don’t think you’re some all-knowing guiding beacon of light, many will look to you for guidance. More than what you say, they’ll watch what you do. Whether you like it or not, your only option here is to lead. This means taking a stance, being vocal, and taking action.

As leaders, many of us come from a place of immense privilege and opportunity. We are in a position that gives us a platform, an audience. No matter the size of your audience, it’s our duty to be vocal when we see injustice. Being silent is being complicit. Leaders aren’t complicit.

The question lingers, what should we do? We don’t have all the answers, but here’s a start:

  • Understand that this stress weighs on you. Many managers feel like they are taking on additional stress of their teams. Make sure that you are in a stable state first. “Secure your mask before helping others.” You’ll be more effective.
  • Have open conversations with your team about what’s going on. This is critical for everyone. Not just shops with minority employees, all shops need to have these discussions. Come from a place of caring and make an effort to understand. Not everyone needs to agree at the end of these conversations, but we all need to be more empathetic.
  • Seek out diversity, not “for the sake of diversity,” but because it enriches our lives, broadens our perspectives, and gives us a better understanding of humanity. Seek it out in your business relationships, in your future employees, and in your life beyond work.
  • Donate
  • Vote
  • Repeat

As the leader of your organization, it’s your job to conceive of a new future and then work to make that a reality. Surely, we can come up with something better than this.

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