Change is hard. I guarantee it is an uncomfortable and humbling journey to dive in and 'really' understand how radically different many people's experience of the world is. Fear of the unknown—often about backlash and resistance—makes implementing change daunting, especially when we know little about the topics, are still learning the vocabulary, and sense we will be on the receiving end of criticisms and will be blamed personally for the inequities that are uncovered.
This is hard work—I know this personally. My early days as a DEI practitioner were driven from an activist mindset as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I came out in my twenties at a time when you could still get fired in the workplace for being gay or experience harassment or violence if you walked down the street with the person you loved. Sadly, this is still the case in far too many parts of the world. The workplace was broken for me, and I used my voice as a community member to advocate for equity and inclusion. I led with a marginalized mindset and my identities as a woman and member of the LGBTQ+ community. I founded my company with this mindset and committed myself to the role of an advocate and to empowering other marginalized communities.
But as I've progressed through my own journey to become an inclusive leader, I've come to better understand the other identities I hold, those that enable me to function more easily in the world, that provide me with certain advantages that aren't available to many others. When I said earlier that it is a humbling and uncomfortable journey to become an inclusive leader, I meant it personally. When I began to learn more about how the privileged aspects of my identity
afforded me access and platforms not available to many others, I felt guilt and shame and wasn't sure anymore where I fit in the change effort or what my role should be.
But that's the thing about identity. None of us is a monolith. Although I have experienced marginalization as a woman and member of the LGBTQ+ community, I also have positional power and social capital many others lack. I've realized that I share certain identities with many in senior leadership—I am White and cisgender, as well as a member of the generation that tends to dominate leadership ranks today. These elements provide me with some automatic trust and connection in what can be challenging conversations. Because of these shared aspects of identity, I am able to gain access, tap into networks, and leverage contacts to have my message heard at different levels, on different platforms. I
realized these were tools I could also wield in the change effort.
As I've come to realize the potential—and impact—of all of my identities, my definition of doing enough has changed dramatically.
It can be challenging to learn about your identity and grapple with issues related to privilege. It's a complex and loaded topic that can hold people back because they don't know what role they play in the change effort or how and if they should get involved. But leaders have a particularly important role in making change happen. To provide guidance and direction, I added a new chapter that delves deep into the role identity and privilege play in propelling change. I like to think of the chapter as a call-in to those leaders who are still on the sidelines.
My goal for this book is to help you grow your capacity to contribute to positive change and a more equitable and inclusive future. We can't outsource the work to others or delegate it to the diversity team or diversity leaders in our organizations. We all have a responsibility to act.
A NEW TYPE OF LEADERSHIP IS CALLED FOR
Power and authority are changing fundamentally. Today's workplaces are full of outdated management practices and the very premises around which many leaders have built their careers, and perhaps organized their lives, are being challenged. We're in the midst of a chaotic and uncertain time in which the workplace is literally being reinvented and leaders are being asked to step up in new and different ways. A new type of leadership is called for. Marshall Goldsmith's book title What Got You Here Won't Get You There rings true here. It's time to throw out the playbook and correct course.
We're in the midst of a chaotic and uncertain time in which the workplace is literally being reinvented and leaders are being asked to step up in new and different ways.