I’ve been watching the protests in the United States and thinking.
I’ve watched the events that have been unleashed in retaliation to a man whose neck was kneed upon by a cop.
I’ve been watching as #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd started trending with over 3,000 mentions per hour
The effects of one knee on one neck has become a symbol of oppression. I can’t breathe adding fuel to the Black Life matters spark that sets our consciousness on fire.
In the midst of all the confusion, terror anger and hurt there is the hope. The hope that is bolstered by cops kneeling with protestors in a show of compassion. The hope that is felt when seeing a line of black men shielding a cop separated from his unit and the hope when cops join protesters to continue a peaceful march
What a time to be alive when in the worst of fear we see great symbolism for hope and of hope.
It is with this hope in mind that I am thinking about leadership. The change it can create and the difference that our leadership can make, whether in our communities, in our families and in our organisations.
I have hope that as we leaders recognise our privilege we will leverage our power to be the change that is needed in our societies.
I sincerely believe that leadership is the 5th wave of production and that which can really propel our countries forward. Therefore when I look at what is happening in the wider world I look for the takeaways for leaders. As I looked at the Minnesota protests I asked myself, what are the lessons for leaders from this scenario?
Today I will share with you the 8 takeaways for leaders from the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder,
1. Leaders let teams breathe. There is no one best style of leadership. Leadership is contextual, we change our style to suit the demands of the situation.
We make split second decision that this is the way that we are going to be at this time.
Whatever your style leaders only know their impact by listening to the feedback from our teams. We listen to both the said and the unsaid. If your team never puts suggestions on the table then ask yourself. “Am I giving them room to breathe?” Thinking requires oxygen.
Leaders who are larger than life and have a know it all attitude, can literally suck all the air out of the room. They leave little room for the team members to think, to participate to share or to be creative.
“I can’t breathe” could very well be what your team is saying when being micromanaged, treated badly or not allowed to bring ideas to the table or participate in decision making.
2. Leaders take your knee of team members’ throats. Some leaders are really great at letting voices be heard and seeking opinions and feedback from team members. Others not so much.
Some leaders get no resistance to any plans that we make. Team members are all compliant and do just and only as they are told. They share opinions only amongst themselves, never with the leader. Check yourself.
If not one ever gives negative verbal or nonverbal feedback, if it’s your way or the highway, if you do not value the teams’ opinions then chances are that your knee is on team members’ throats and they do not or cannot speak freely.
You can choose to be the leader who supports difference of opinions and thoughts, discusses ideas, and encourages creativity so that you can get the best solutions to problems. All it takes is a shift in your position.
3. Leaders hold other leaders accountable. I personally know some great leaders. I’ve interviewed some. These leaders respect, encourage and motivate team members. These leaders believe that they work with adults and enjoy learning and sharing with them. Most leaders are like this. We think about team members in a way that honours their humanity and gives them the benefit of the doubt.
Yet on leadership teams there is always that one leader.
You know the one – The leader whom we mince past. We barely speak to Leader X because we disagree with his disrespectful tones, his awful comments, and his hideous gossip all directed at team members. We try to not talk to Leader Y we avoid contact and rush off. What we do not say to Leader X and Y is that their behaviour is unacceptable.
The entire leadership team gives consent to leaders X and Y when we are silent about their ill behaviour.
We become culpable in our silence just as these leaders who display terrible traits.
Our teams look at us bewildered and plead why leaders let Leaders X and Y behave like that. And as these leaders carry on our leadership suffers as we lose face and credibility with our teams. We become the other 3 cops standing by doing nothing. We are part of the problem,
4. Leaders promote equity justice and equality in your teams and organisation. Equity demands that we treat team members fairly and impartially. Apply policies and procedures the same way to each team member especially when the interpretation or application is at the leaders’ discretion.
Know when you are setting precedence and don’t give to Peter unless you are willing to give to Paul.
Equality asks leaders to ensure that team members have equal status, equal rights and equal opportunities. The leader is to create opportunities for all. This means that sometimes we have to stop and hold the hands of the less experienced or less competent to help them build their muscle.
Equity and equality are backed up by justice which assumes that the leader is a reasonable man or woman and so can act in a way that is fair to all parties at all times.
5. Leaders remove all isms. There is always that one person on the team who we are drawn to, more so than others.
We tend to trust people who share our background and experience more so that others who don’t. We know that people who attended the same school as us, people who grew up in the same religion or people with similar socioeconomic backgrounds are just like us and probably hold similar beliefs and values. We may lean toward hiring, helping, supporting these person more so than others. We may be more patient, with these, give them a listening ear and want the best for them.
Leaders be careful we can’t afford to go with these feelings, we can’t treat these team members differently from others it’s called favouritism.
When we promote these people beyond their experience and qualification without regard for others we are practicing cronyism.
When we ascribe qualities to people because of their ethnicity or racial composition it’s called racism.
When we identify characteristics in others based on the shade of the skin or texture of their hair it’s called colorism /shadism.
Stop and think for a minute. All of this is related to slavery and colonialism.
Leaders if you are falling into these old traps set by slave or colonial masters more than 400 years ago get a grip.
These isms rob your organisation of diversity, new perspectives and much needed change. It also may be the reason that you are losing your talent, why team members are frustrated, or have lost enthusiasm and seem to have no interest in the company’s longevity
6. Leaders Check your assumptions.
- What do you assume about the people that you work with?
- What do you assume about their intelligence and their interests?
- What do you assume about what they deserve, or the quality of lives that they should live?
- Do you think that they have enough and should want nothing more?
- Are you thinking that what is available for your family should or should not be accessible to team members?
Leaders we have a responsibility to the people that we work with to assist them become the best version of themselves that they can be and inspire them to go even beyond their ambitions.
If we assume the worst of them guess what we get – the worst of them.
What we assume that others deserve is what we will inspire others to achieve.
7. Leaders check your self – I cannot forget the nonchalant face of that cop as he knelt on the neck of George Floyd for 8 solid slow minutes. That cop did not move, he did not flinch even as he knew he was being taped. He was being a cop. He was right and George Floyd was wrong.
This was not the cop’s first rodeo. He had other infractions and complaints made against him which went unchecked. George Floyd’s death was the natural trajectory of the cop’s previous behaviour.
What about you leader? How many complaints were brought against you? What is the turnover like in your team? What did the employee engagement survey suggest about your leadership?
There are many data points both internal and external to the organisation that give us feedback on a daily basis about the state of our leadership.
We all have to stop, check our behaviours and determine if the way that we are is the way that we want to be.
Our emotions our gut feelings and our hearts and souls are our internal compasses that tell us when we are wrong. Externally we have family and friends who point out our shortcomings, Whatever our feedback mechanisms we each have the ability to self-examine, to admit when we are wrong and to make amends and self-correct We cannot be tone deaf to our impacts on others.
8. Leaders you can create the spark. We have seen how the murder of George Floyd inadvertently is creating both havoc and hope. This is a great question for our leaders.
Are you creating havoc or hope?
Imagine for a moment that everything that you do creates change. Is the change havoc or hope? I am inviting leaders to lean on the side of hope.
Think for a minute of one thing that you can do today to create change in your organisation.
It could be something that promotes equity, or equality or justice. It could be something that removes an oppression or suppression or something that limits the isms that exist. Maybe you can finally give Leader x or y honest feedback.
Imagine that every leader in this country can create acts of hope that tell team members I want to work with the adult that you are and celebrate your humanity,
Those are my 8 lessons from the murder of George Floyd and all that ensured after
- Leaders let teams breathe
- Leaders take your knee of team members throats.
- Leaders Hold other leaders accountable
- Leaders Promote equity justice and equality
- Leaders remove all isms..
- Leaders check your assumptions
- Leaders check your self
- Leaders you can create the spark
What about you what were your takeaways from the Minnesota events?
I challenge leaders to be the change that you want to see. Your leadership is what we need to make a positive change in our communities and our countries,
My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.
At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss the way forward and how to get ready for the future. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on Linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong. You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or visit my website http://www.MaxineAttong .com.