Our Responsibility as Leaders

Leadership | April 6, 2021

The last few weeks have brought more of the same disturbing news that seems to continuously plague the United States these days: Violent hate crimes against the AAPI community; mass shootings in public places; the disturbing revisitation of George Floyd’s murder during the trial of the police officer responsible for his death.

All of this has had me reflecting on the anti-racism work I’ve been doing personally and the things that work is revealing to me as a white woman leader. Things like my own limiting beliefs around the prevalence of the culture of whiteness. The ways that culture of whiteness permeates everything around us. And also, the subtle ways our society is structured to foster racism and the othering of those who are different.

As my anti-racism work has translated to how I serve my clients, it has further revealed how deeply integral and inextricably linked anti-racism work is to becoming the successful, influential, sought after leader I know you want to be.

Here is why. Antiracism work challenges you to look at yourself, to question your belief systems, and examine your limiting beliefs. It invites you to look at those around you and truly see who is standing in front of and next to you. This allows you to show up more open, less defensive, and more curious. You, in turn, know how to better understand your teams; how to speak more authentically to their hearts and minds; and how to make them feel seen, heard and valued. 

At MettaWorks, a fundamental premise to our methods of success is that we do the inner work that leads to outer transformation.

Anti-racism work is at its core important and critical inner work. It is not just donating money, or signing up for community service, or proclaiming ally-ship – all of which is incredibly important. Anti-racism work is also looking deeply at ourselves, particularly those of us who are white or white- passing.

In order for change to happen, not only in disrupting inequitable systems, but also for our own growth and success, it is vital for us each to do our own inner anti-racism work.

What does inner anti-racism work look like?

Given the egregious, unfounded and deadly violence against the AAPI community, let’s start there. Start by noticing:

  • How do you engage with the Asian community around you?
  • Pay attention to your own filters about individuals in the AAPI community.
  • Notice the assumptions that you are making that you don’t even realize*

*Hint: A way to start noticing this is paying attention to when you are surprised by something as it relates to a marginalized group particularly if it does not align with your own thoughts or assumptions. For example, being surprised at how “well-spoken” someone is.

As you begin this inner anti-racism work, particularly as a white or white-passing person, it is important to not personalize and self-shame. As I have mentioned before, Myisha T. Hill talks about how personalizing and self-shaming puts you in a defensive position and creates immobility. Instead, bring curiosity about the origin of your own racist views (and we all have them), your unconscious prejudiced belief systems, or your inaccurate assumptions about a group of people.

Examine it, question it, challenge it and then release it.

This work will not only make you a better contributing member of our world, but it will also make you a profoundly powerful leader. I urge you to start your anti-racism journey today. I promise you, speaking from my personal experience, it is a journey worth taking.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant