Using Leadership Stories
To Build Trust and Equity in Organization
Last week we were asked to be guests on Oscar Garcia’s podcast “Career Talk with OG”. The title of our talk was “Using Leadership Stories To Build Trust & Equity in Organizations”. It was the first time we shared in a public arena about our work, and what do you know we had 228 impressions.
What a beautiful experience it was being on the podcast. To be able to speak openly about our work, the impacts we have made, which drove us to begin learning and facilitating leadership stories has been a fruitful yet short journey.
I remember the first time I wrote a leadership story. The emotions, feelings and thoughts that quickly emerged. Going back, yet living in the moment. The rawness of exploring how my life’s journey and experiences have impacted me as a leader. Building out experiences into lessons in a way I had never thought of. The people, the places, the feelings, the learnings. Through this work I have both learned and unlearned what leadership means and what the real impacts of building people and teams.
My favorite question that Oscar asked was, “what is leadership to you?” A question I grapple with both professionally and personally as a mother. Yet lately I am leaning into the leader being a guide, one with wisdom and experience. This guided form of leadership allows for diversity and innovation, it allows for individuals to be, to grow and to lead themselves. It’s the type of leadership I always yearned for in full time employment yet never received. Rather I had micromanager leaders, inexperienced leaders, unqualified leaders, and/or color blind leaders. Never had I experienced a leader who was vulnerable, brave, humble, knowledgeable yet nimble, inclusive and transparent.
What we are building is a new framework and sacred spaces for leaders to explore their identities, build self awareness and cultivate stories that inspire. This is foreign ground for many, cobble stoned and filled with potholes. It requires a deep commitment to oneself to the process and the outcome. It asks that we tell the whole ugly truth about our lives, ourselves, our mistakes and our learnings. But what we have seen on the other side when leaders become brave in this way is shared understanding, commitment, respect, and trust.
Defining Leadership through a DEI lens
Carmen talks about guiding people to the organization’s North Star by giving them freedom to choose their own path there. (She’s not talking about the individual’s North Star; she’s talking about the Organization’s.) Then I talk about the value of Storytelling as a tool to help people identify their North Star.
The conundrum here is that when individuals uncover their personal North Star, often it doesn’t fit with the organization’s. There is a rub. The DEI work that we do helps leaders within organizations see who are the people that can support the organization without compromising their own values.
If I define Leadership through a DEI lens, I would say our future leaders will need these qualities to run successful organizations:
- The capacity to bring people with very different perspectives to the table to work together (Diversity)
- A commitment to ensure shared decision making power across the organization and when not possible, a commitment to be fully transparent (Equity)
- And finally, the capacity to inspire warmth and belonging throughout the organization in order to survive the bumps in the road (Inclusion)
How do we promote DEI transformation?
Carmen’s example of spewing out her frustration about the fact that Black History Month was never acknowledged within the client’s organization, does model the behavior that shakes up the norm. It gives other POCs in the room permission to talk about experiences of exclusion. It opens the door for relevant conversations among the team. It’s important for us to be the whistleblowers in the workplace at times!
For me (Sandy), working with White leaders is the place I want to do transformative work. I am traveling the journey that needs to be taken. As White folks, we have experienced layers and layers of unacknowledged privilege. We have learned how to step on and over others, getting accolades, degrees, promotions, and attributing these accomplishments to our hard work. But all along the way, did we stop to ask, is this fair? Is this just? Where are the people of color?
Through Storytelling. Through providing prompts such as “What’s a value that you hold close? And what is the first memory that comes to your mind when you think about that value?”
“We can’t work together if we don’t know one another.” And uncovering and sharing the stories is the most inspiring way we have found to build community within an organization.
Barriers are blessings. Sometimes a NO is really a YES.
So I didn’t get that promotion, I realized, “these aren’t my people”.
We realize something has to change. “Either I find a way to make this environment work better for me, or I leave, and find a better fit.
And finally, “The browning of America has already happened. You either speed up if you want to be a leader or you are going to get left behind.” Carmen nailed it.
We yearn to have more of these conversations, to reflect, to learn from others and to share. We encourage you to listen to the podcast here. If what we spoke about resonates with you and you want to bring this work to your leadership and your organization, reach out to us at [email protected] or [email protected].