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.

No-Nonsense Reasons Why Your Words Matter

Smart leaders know they are scrutinized with every word and action taken. How and what you say has consequences. Words matter.

C’mon leaders, when are you going to get it? With position, power, and influence comes responsibility. We yearn for leaders we can believe in and trust. Let’s have a frank conversation why your words matter.

We cannot read minds

We want to know what you think. We want to know where you are taking us. We know you will make decisions and take actions in the future that will affect us. How you present your ideas persuade us to either follow or resist. Most of us are not in your circle of friends or influence. One of the ways to understand what you think is to pay attention to what you write or say. Your words matter to us.

Turn us into believers

You need to prove to us that you are trustworthy. We are skeptical of leadership. Before you open your mouth or hit send on your mobile device, please check your facts. Once it comes out of your mouth, you cannot take back what you said. Yes, you can spin a message or apologize for a misstatement but each time you do, you chip away at your credibility.

We connect with people who we believe are credible. We follow leaders we trust. Stephen M. R. Covey gave us a practical model for credibility. We look for all four of these characteristics to determine if a leader is credible: integrity, intent, capability, and results. We will assess your character (and whether we like it). We will look deep to understand your integrity and your intent. What you say gives us visibility and clarity to both.

Silence is acceptance

We evaluate leaders by what they say.  We evaluate leaders by what they don’t say. It troubles us when you do not call out bad performance or behavior. If my co-worker’s performance is below standards and you fail to address it, we think you are either showing favoritism, a hypocrite or a coward. We hold leaders to a high standard and we want you to live up to it.

Be careful of your timing and tone

Words can instantly inspire, inform, motivate, explain, upset, scare or divide. Words matter so does “when” and “how” you deliver your message.

We recognize it is difficult for you to determine the right time to comment on tough issues. However, in the absence of your statements, we make up stories in our heads. Science tells us that once we make up our minds, it is harder to move us in a different direction.

Your tone is important. We want to believe you are sincere and mean what you say. We see mixed messages when your tone and words do not match. Tone circles back to your credibility and believability.

Language makes us human. Words have power. They evoke thoughts, emotion, and reaction. Great leaders and communicators have a unique ability to use words to draw us toward them. We hope you take to heart what we have said. Our words matter too.

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.

New Traits of Exceptional Multicultural Leaders

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Advice for the Next Generation of Multicultural Leaders

At the National Diversity Council’s 2nd Annual Multicultural Leadership Roundtable in San Diego in August, I was among five leaders of color who hold executive positions within their organization asked to speak on topics related to multicultural leadership and diversity.

This is a very timely topic. The world is reeling right now with intense discussions around religious conflicts, political discord, and challenging social issues. With all this in the background, people and companies continue to move into new geographies, expand operations, and want to sell in new cultures. More students, tourists, and workers are globetrotting around the world. As a result, the world is getting smaller and leaders are presented with more global challenges every day.

How does this generation of leaders (and the next) navigate through these unavoidable cultural differences and clashes? By developing the four main traits that exceptional multicultural leaders possess.

1. Great leaders resist being ethnocentric.

Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture. The aptitude to understand and be introspective about your own culture is an indispensable talent of a multicultural leader. The capability to see your own biases and know how you view others through your own cultural lens is vital as well.

My mother, who immigrated to the U.S. when she was 25 years old, taught me my earliest life lesson about ethnocentrism: “People speak, act and think differently from you; just remember, they are just as right as you are.”

Trusted and respectful multicultural leaders understand, relate to, and can adjust to the perspectives of others. All leaders learn valuable lessons when they are open to see the significance of diversity of thought, perspective, and cultures. Exceptional leaders actually search out different perspectives and opinions which, in turn, challenge them and others to reach higher.

2. Great leaders plan ahead for cultural differences.

Highly effective multicultural leaders wisely avoid minimizing cultural differences and, better yet, plan for differences. Business guru Peter Drucker said it quite aptly, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” 

Leaders who work across cultures know, with certainty, that cultural differences will surface with interactions among employees, peers or customers. The best leaders will plan and help their teams to recognize and adjust to these cultural differences.

3. Great leaders foster personal connections and relationships while building trust.

Effective leaders foster positive relationships and trust. Shrewd leaders understand that the first step to building rapport and trust is establishing personal connections. The challenge is that blazing the path to constructive connections, rapport and trust is unique in each culture.

Great leaders proactively plan and prepare to build bridges, not walls. This starts with asking key questions, such as:

  • Does this culture expect a business-first or a relationship-first approach?
  • Do managers and employees interact in an equal or a hierarchical manner?
  • Are communication styles direct or indirect?
  • How does this culture value time?
  • How are decisions made and executed?
  • How do we move these diverse groups closer together?

Forging trust is a difficult and fragile concept, even in one’s own culture. Doing it in another culture takes a tremendous amount of knowledge and effort.

4. Great leaders have high cultural intelligence (CQ). 

Successful multicultural leaders have high cultural intelligence (CQ), which is the capability to relate to and work effectively across cultures. The concept of cultural intelligence was developed by the work done by Ang and Van Dyne (2003) as a research-based way of measuring and predicting intercultural performance.

CQ can be thought of in the same way one considers an individual’s intellectual quotient (IQ) or emotional intelligence (EQ). These “quotients” are research-based measurements of human competence and capability. The remarkable thing about cultural intelligence is that it is malleable and can be increased. People with high CQ can lead, adapt or blend in more effectively within any environment than those with a lower CQ.

Mastering these key competencies will help multicultural leaders to successfully navigate cultural differences in this rapidly changing world.

Research has also shown that teams with higher levels of CQ are more successful. While homogenous teams will outperform diverse teams if both teams have low CQ, a diverse team with high CQ will outperform a homogenous team by an estimated factor of five. This concept can be crucial for leaders who are reaching for higher levels of innovation, productivity, profitability, speed, efficiency, employee engagement, marketing, and selling into cross-cultural markets. Cross-cultural explorers can take a CQ assessment to measure their baseline CQ levels and participate in training programs to enhance it, thus increasing their effectiveness across cultures.

Developing these four traits will help leaders understand and embrace the value of diversity and be most successful in this multicultural environment.

Originally published on Sharpheels.com/experts