“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller
Resulting from the current “trifecta” of COVID-19, economic collapse, and social upheaval, individuals and organizations might be wise to examine their leadership capabilities, myself included, as it relates to the topic of race and its influence on work. One question I have been asked about a great deal personally and professionally is, what are my thoughts about being a so-called African American in the United States in business? I was not asked to contribute my lived experience to this resource. However, I echo its sentiments. A lot of what I have learned about leadership was conveyed to me initially as a story.
For all the serious practitioners, purveyors of equality, inclusion, and diversity, a must-have “field-book” and guide, Race, Work & Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, is an essential resource. Edited by Laura Morgan Roberts, Tony Mayo, and David A. Thomas, the book lays out different perspectives from qualitative and quantitative views used by individuals and organizations in an attempt to understand and deal with the headwinds of racism at work. It offers easily adopted strategies that help create fertile soil where people of color can thrive and not just survive.
We can all observe that the discussion topic of race in the workplace can be volatile, problematic and a challenge to keep the dialog healthy and productive. Race, Work & Leadership gives strategies individuals and organizations can take to choose love over fear by developing organizational competency. In contrast, the topic of race in the workplace can also be used in discussion as a way of creating freedom, acceptance, and to mutual benefit.
Through the various essays and stories, individuals are alerted to the importance of having a “container” which possesses a level of psychological safety (Edmondson, A. 1999) where the dialogue can begin.
Roberts, Mayo, and Thomas do an exceptional job compiling essays and stories chronicling experiences of how race influences success or failure in the workplace. The book gives fresh insight and research on the questions around:
What does it mean to be Black in corporate America today?
How are racial dynamics in organizations changing?
How do we build inclusive organizations?
Race, Work & Leadership, is a great resource to enlighten those who want a deeper insight of the plight of being Black in corporate America and let those who may have been hindered or even benefited from aspects of racial inequality realize that others have had similar experiences. Visit raceworkleadership.com to learn more.
Packed full of useful research, strategies, and practices, my three main takeaways, which can be accelerants or inhibitors to navigate the topic of race successfully, are; personal resilience, psychological maturity (self-knowledge), and “champions” or what I like to describe as “accomplices”. I particularly liked the stories on “champions” (usually white males); the simple idea that my work is so valued by someone in authority that they take personal risk to help me achieve greater success. As is highlighted throughout the book, choosing strategies of love overcomes the deficiencies of fear. Choosing love is the soil where true equality, diversity, inclusion and unity is grown.
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