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.

6 Ways to Embrace Change to Achieve Greatest Personal Growth

One of the most desirable traits of a smart leader is the ability to view problems as opportunities. Challenges, mistakes, lack of progress or failure can spur professionals to make adjustments and move in a different direction. Setbacks are opportune reasons to disrupt thinking and pivot to new ways or better ideas.

Problem situations beget change, yet change, for most people, is hard. When the need to change arises, how can we move toward it in the fastest way possible?

Consider these six tips to help professionals move faster towards positive change.

  • Be ready and open to thinking differently. Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  If you are not getting the results you want and you recognize that you are doing things in the same old way, it’s time to change how you think. Looking at an issue from a different perspective or a fresh outlook may be just the modification to help you find a better path. Thinking differently also means striving to attain a growth mindset. People with growth mindsets are open to learning and change.  Leaders with growth mindsets believe that their own talents – and those of other as well – can be further developed through hard work, good strategies, and regular feedback.
  • Manage your limiting self-talk and perfectionist tendencies. The speed of change depends on your ability to resist the negative stories you tell yourself that may hold you back. Don’t beat yourself up. Learn from your mistakes. Restrictive internal thoughts, by nature, will inhibit your decision making, increase your self-consciousness, and limit movement towards change. If you can resist negativity, you will be able to get back on the path to fast and real change. Perfectionism can slow change efforts, too. Perfectionism is tough to let go because many people see perfectionist tendencies as a positive trait. Perfectionists prefer to be 100% certain before making a fault-free decision, thus avoiding the risk and criticism that may come with that decision. To overcome perfectionist tendencies, push yourself to be more timely and reduce your need for full data and information before making a move or decision.
  • Do things in a different way. After thinking differently comes trying different actions. If your old approaches are not working, be willing to try something new. Shake things up. Try things you don’t generally do. Watch and learn from others who do things better than you do. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t work. Transformation does not occur when you fall into the trap of doing things the way they have always been done.
  • Change the people you listen to. Be circumspect of advisors who constantly give you the same stale or unoriginal thoughts and are not willing to embrace new ideas. If they are like this, it is time to look for new advisors. Search for great advisors with wide-ranging experiences that fit what you need and who come at challenges and opportunities differently than you do. Diversity in your advisors will bring diversity of thought and, most likely, faster change and better results.
  • Be willing to make changes to your team. Just as you evaluate the advice you receive, you want to ensure you are regularly evaluating your team. You need the right team around you in order to succeed. The people on your team should be adaptable, flexible and enthusiastic to learn and do. Your incumbent team members could be exactly what you need if they are adaptable, want to grow and are willing to put in the effort needed. Realistically though, sometimes you will need to change out some members of your team. (Tip: If you bring on new people to your team, resist hiring people who are exactly like you.)
  • Celebrate victories, no matter how big or small. It is all right to pat yourself on the back and celebrate when you have done something well, especially when you have done something successfully that was out of your comfort zone. Give yourself some positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement will motivate you afterward to repeat those behaviors.

If you want change and you want it to happen sooner rather than later, begin by looking in the mirror because the starting point is you. Be careful to not get caught up in your fears, in self-doubt, or in deflecting blame because those detractors will slow you down. Pivoting for change and innovation will be accelerated by your attitude to change.