5 Ways to secure leadership equity

5 Ways to secure leadership equity

In this current climate, where racial inequalities are at the fore-front, it is easy to misconstrue other subtleties that are often overlooked or unnoticed when the wind blows and leadership becomes the topic of discussion. It becomes second nature to give companies who hire a person of color as the diversity officer a favorable nod or a gold-star for promoting unconscious bias training. While these efforts are a great start, they are simply that, a start. The efforts represent a bridge to closing the racial inequalities gap that may exist, but what about equity, particularly for leaders or aspiring leaders of color who are already in the ranks; hanging in the balance? Equality and equity cannot be used interchangeably. Equality is giving everyone the same resources whereas equity involves a distribution of resources based on the needs of the recipient. While the corporate or collective battle for equality rages on, equity cannot be left behind. I’ve discovered five guaranteed avenues for securing leadership equity.

Build alliances. Building alliances go well beyond the traditional mentoring and networking engagements that are usually highlighted. Don’t get me wrong, both options have respective benefits. And in some cases, these paths could be the vehicle for meeting potential alliances. However, solid alliances should outlive the duration of any mentoring or networking program. An alliance is a confidant who has your back no matter what. These are people whose values align with your values even during the weekends on the golf course with the buddies. People who are willing to sacrifice their privilege for your fair share of equity. Albeit, hard to come by in a capitalistic society where constant messages of me, my and more are blasted at us daily, true alliances can exist. It may come down to being in the right place at the right time where two worlds collide, free of superficiality and ripe with vulnerabilities and authenticity. You will know when it emerges.

Diversify. Diversify. Diversify. Similar to the best advice any financial advisor would tell you about investing funds, it is equally important to diversify leadership capacity. For years, I have watched many leaders run themselves ragged for an organization, burning the midnight oil at both ends, neglecting special or sacred moments with friends and family; while managing every work assignment with an extreme sense of urgency; only to retire and wonder aimlessly without purpose because their job was their life. I remember hearing a powerful quote at a leadership retreat, “Give your best, but not your all.” Even in giving your best, it is crucial to parcel out your energy in more than one area. Just because you are talented or an expert in one field does not mean you cannot excel at another. Remember, we all started out as rookies. Spread your talents across many areas, even in the same organization. Do not shy away from unfamiliar opportunities outside of your comfort zone. It just may be the breakthrough you needed for others to realize your many talents and skill-sets which could be instrumental in boosting equity.

Be intuitive. As a leader, there is nothing that will lead to depletion faster than not seeing the hand-writing on the wall, when the hand-writing is on the wall, in bold and highlighted. A keen self-awareness to include emotional intelligence is crucial to avoiding this common pitfall which in some cases can eradicate any equity that may exist. It is imperative to discern the capacity of those who serve as the gate-keeper and fully understand if they are willing to redistribute equity fairly. If it does not exist, recognize this ugly truth and move forward. It is not worth it to grow angry, bitter or broken because so much blood, sweat and tears have been exhausted. Learn from the situation what you can and move on. As the old song says, you gotta know when to “hold em” and know when to “fold em.” For those who are able to realize greater capacity and operate in an environment where others recognize disparities and are willing to share, consider yourself fortunate. Work with your alliances on curtailing or developing the appropriate opportunities to engage or communicate effectively.

Be inquisitive. There are creative ways to gain the information you are seeking. For example, if you want to know if your budget allocations, promotions/benefits, or premiere assignments or responsibilities are on par with your colleagues who bask in equity automatically, ask the right questions. It doesn’t have to be blunt and direct. Instead, make the conversation more casual and lite. Midstream through the routine check-ins about the recap from the weekend or updates on the kids, ask their feelings about the topic of interest. Most people already have diarrhea of the mouth and jump at the opportunity to keep talking. And usually, somewhere within those expressions of feelings are the facts. This information is invaluable as it helps you gauge possibilities for securing equity or at a minimum identify potential roadblocks in an effort to better strategize.

Shoot your shot.   Once the above actions are completed, you are in the best position to shoot your shot. Remember to do your homework. Know as much as possible about those in positions of power and influence. This knowledge and information will put you ahead of the game. It is statistically proven that people are impressed by the more you know about them which creates an immediate connection. Aim high. Be a tough negotiator. Show examples of your work and worth to include highlighting any present inequities. Remain professionally, persistent and positive. After putting your best foot forward, you can rest assured in anticipation of the manifestation of your efforts.

The leadership gap was not created overnight. It took centuries of oppression to establish the widening gap and disparities which will not close in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, change and progress is possible. It will take key action on your part through building alliances, diversifying leadership efforts and energy, and being intuitive and inquisitive so that you can shoot your best shot. Inevitably, you will win.

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