There are so many rich and wonderful resources just an arm’s length away when we are leaders of organizations with several to hundreds of employees, including the experiences, wisdom, innovation, drive, and optimism of those around us. Employees can provide incredible insight into the culture and spoken and unspoken practices of an organization. They can also bring a wide variety of experiences from their personal lives and other jobs, contributing helpful data and educational material from which all can learn–if they are comfortable and willing to share their experiences.
I recommend listening to this interview with Dr. Marlette Jackson during which she highlights several helpful tools for leaders beginning or continuing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) work in their organizations. Leadership work is DEI work and applying what we do well as leaders to empowering our organizations and the people within them to change and grow is a natural step forward.
I was a late adopter of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice work as a leader at my school and DEIJ was an area where I felt, particularly at the time, woefully under-prepared and underinformed. This was an area where I did not feel I could find some form of footing to get myself up to speed quickly and develop a strategy to lead my community. I carried underlying feelings of inadequacy and guilt, especially in the post-George Floyd world, and these feelings overwhelmed my ability to employ my typical leadership skills to guide my community. Looking back, I think that the methods I work on with school leaders, and the leadership style that I personally employ, actually suit DEI implementation as a leader of an organization.
In her interview with Leadership Specialist Tanveer Nasir, Dr. Jackson talks about key elements to tackle DEI work at any organization. At least four of her steps and qualities jump out to me as universally relevant to leadership work:
- Self education
- Self-understanding and analysis (exploring bias)
- Empowering, giving voice to, and learning from all employees
That last point, which I mentioned at the outset of this post, particularly struck a chord, as I believe, leaders sometimes drastically underutilize the talents, skills, hopes, perspective, and experiences of their own staff. When tackling the important work of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice, this leadership tool can go a long way and should not be overlooked.