The 7 Subtle Signs of “Woke” Leadership

No leader aspires to be called “out-of-touch”, “closed-minded” or even biased. It is sad to say that employees, peers, and constituents often use these words to describe the people who lead them. 

Imagine the amazing world of work if our leaders miraculously woke up and became intensely attuned and stood up to questionable events around them.

The concept of “woke” was introduced in a popular song nearly a decade ago but gained prominence recently within the Black Lives Matter movement. It describes being keenly attuned and aware along with questioning one’s surroundings – especially when disorder and unfairness are present.

Employees want their leaders to wake up to the world around them. “Woke” leaders who take action based on their enlightened perspectives are more respected. There is no better time than now for leadership to be intensively self-aware and awaken to the reality that they no longer can keep their heads in the sand.

What does “woke” leadership look like?  It looks like this.

You care and it matters.

You possess empathy towards others so becoming “woke” matters to you. Making a difference and breaking away from the way things were before is important to you. You believe the status quo, or worse yet, going backward, are not acceptable.

You seek to understand.

You accept you sometimes live in a bubble. Yet, you can step out of it. Woke leaders look deeper than what is on the surface to understand what’s really going on. They are open to hearing something fundamentally different from the story that is being told.

Refusing to turn away from what is in front of you.

You believe wrong is wrong. You don’t turn your head and look away. You don’t rationalize, justify, or make excuses. When it is wrong, you are courageous and you address it.

You know that woke leadership takes intentional effort.

Woke leadership takes work and commitment to do better. Out-of-touch leaders often work without mindfulness or in a state of mental cruise control. Woke leaders will not abdicate or relegate responsibility that should be theirs.

Bring closer the people who give you a different perspective.

Woke leaders know it is risky is to surround yourself with people who are just like you or who tell you “yes” every time. Surrounding yourself with people who validate you constantly may be comfortable and boost your ego but it keeps you playing small. Woke leaders will surround themselves with different perspectives, different stories, and different experiences.

You realize that you have blind spots and biases.

No one is free of either. Woke leadership recognizes that everyone has blind spots and even unintentional, implicit biases. Woke leaders know that enhanced self-awareness allows you to work on lessening blind spots and biases.

You act before the chaos.

The ultimate goal of woke leadership is to sense, grasp, adapt and act before any situation goes the wrong direction.

These were the seven telltale signs of “woke” leadership. Remember, management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.“Woke” leadership is doing the right things even when wrong things are all around.

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