Discover more from How to Lead Everybody (with their permission)
Living the Dream
Putting Dr. King's words into action
In his famous speech, Dr. King shared his dream for a better world.
As leaders, we can influence our own little parts of the world.
Most of us do not, of course, engage in the worst sorts of racist behaviors—we are not part of the KKK or the Proud Boys, and we do not spew racist epithets or spread disgusting rumors designed to inflame racist violence.
So, we think we are doing okay. We are not being racist.
But as leaders, we set the tone. Imagine a workplace in which the person in charge of the office did not personally fudge their timesheets or pad their expense reports, and felt that was enough to prevent fraud and over-billing in their office, even if many other people were routinely doing these things. As leaders, we need to use our influence to minimize bad actions, not just in ourselves, but in the communities for which we have responsibility.
Make sure that your workplace is inclusive. Everyone is welcome if they can do the work. Everyone has a path to professional success if they have the skills/talent, and they make the effort. Race, ethnicity, gender, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc. are part of people’s identities—don’t disrespect people by saying that you “don’t see” that part of their identities, but make the intentional decision to see beyond any stereotypes or biases you may personally hold.
If your workforce is not a diverse reflection of your larger community, make the choice to actively recruit people from more than your usual “feeder” channels. For example, if your goal is to expand diversity and inclusion, but the candidates for entry-level positions do not reflect that diversity, expand your recruiting efforts to include more colleges or recruiting platforms.
Raise awareness of microaggressions—the little comments and actions that make people feel unwelcome, disrespected, or “other” in the workplace. These may be intentional or unintentional, but they contribute to a negative experience in the workplace. An example of this is the back-handed “compliment,” like “she’s really good at math, for a woman.” This reveals the commenter’s bias that they believe women are not as good at math. Microaggressions have been compared to mosquito bites—individually annoying, and the discomfort adds up. Imagine a workplace in which some people are being plagued with dozens of mosquito bites each week, and the boss who continues to leave the windows open because the mosquitos are not biting him. Don’t be that boss.
Today is a great day to look at ways to bring the world closer to Dr. King’s dream. I think most of us would like to live in that world.