Leading Through Racial Unrest
We all had high hopes for this year. But, let’s face it. If 2020 was a cookie, it’d be oatmeal raisin.
Each month has brought something unexpected, something uncomfortable, something just downright hard. But what if we looked at 2020 as an opportunity? Right now, we have the opportunity to never go back to life as “normal.” People are looking for leadership. People are asking tough questions. We have a unique opportunity to put into practice what it really looks like to be ministers of reconciliation and bridge-builders. This is an opportunity to examine how we, as Kingdom business leaders, are leading in the marketplace.
In the midst of all the uncertainty that 2020 has held, one thing is for certain: nothing will ever be the same.
We had the privilege of speaking with Julaine Smith, a former Fortune 500 business CFO-turned-Kingdom-leader and coach of “Christianpreneurs.” We pray you will learn from what this inspirational, wisdom-filled leader had to say on the subject of leading through racial unrest.
- Recognize that there is an external threat and an opportunity as it pertains to pursuing justice and righteousness. As leaders, we should take advantage of this influential opportunity in our businesses.
- Begin to do what is in our power and authority to set the right tone at the top of our business. Set it with your leadership team: attitude, awareness and action.
Here are some ways we can set this tone:
- Practice hearing and obeying God
- How? Position ourselves to be able to hear from God when we start talking about implementing policies of diversity, equity and racial inclusion.
- Have an effectual prayer life (James 5:16)
- How? The spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of who we are in Christ comes by way of us praying and asking God to help us.
- Align our will with God’s will
- How? Hold loosely what we believe to be the right thing so that God’s influence can come and tweak it to bring it into alignment with His will.
We need to be careful not to just simply read the literature that can help leaders implement these policies. The amount of information, news, media, social media and chatter we are hearing from every direction can be like drinking from a fire hose. It is important to add knowledge to our faith, yet put what we learn through the filter of our relationship with the Lord.
“Put what we learn through the filter of our relationship with the Lord.” – Julaine Smith
In that context, we are applying the knowledge in a way that is going to bring about the intended policies of diversity, equity and racial inclusion in our companies.
This starts with a willing heart that is open to God’s influence and ends with an action that brings about a change so that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or faith feel heard. We want the right people on the right bus and in the right seat. Hopefully this results in a diverse group of people. As Kingdom leaders, we know that they are all valuable and should be led in such a way that demonstrates honor, respect and dignity.
If we create an environment where employees feel like they are valued and respected, they will want to be a part of it by bringing their skills and giftings to our workplace every single day.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul addresses how we all have different gifts given to each of us individually as God wills. Paul, then, talks about diversity within the body.
Today, in business as a Kingdom leader, we know that this idea of diversity keeps coming up. This whole idea of diversity is within the body of Christ, but Paul also emphasizes quite clearly how equity and inclusion principles also apply to the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:14-15 says, “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.” In verse 21, Paul says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
All parts of the body need to be included, because in order for the body to function in a holistic and effective way, we have to have every part. What does the spirit of racism try to do? It tries to divide, thus negatively affecting God’s design for the body of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul speaks about the attributes of love.
“I know the Bible was written in a way where Chapter 12 ends and Chapter 13 starts, but I believe Paul was writing this as one message. He talked about the diversity of the Body of Christ, but then went right into the conversation about love, and gave us these guideposts that help us to understand what love looks like,” said Julaine.
Love helps unify.
When we talk about bringing principles of diversity, equity and racial inclusion into the workplace, what is the foundation upon which all of these initiatives and policies should be built? LOVE.
How can we demonstrate love when we’re in the middle of racial unrest?
- Listen with an open heart.
- Be self-aware in regard to our own implicit bias, meaning, as leaders, we should be sensitive in how we’re listening.
Let’s talk about implicit bias. What exactly is it? Implicit bias causes us to hear and embrace things that align with what we believe to be true and to reject or ignore information that contradicts what we believe to be true. We can see how harmful implicit bias can be when trying to form a relationship with someone who doesn’t think like us, look like us, or doesn’t have our same culture, experience and background.
Racism is a spirit, and implicit bias is part of our human nature. Everybody, no matter what race, has a filter through which we process information in the world.
As a leader, we should be sensitive to how we’re listening. That helps us to be able to understand the other person’s point of view. It helps us to be able to build relationship with them based upon our understanding of who they are instead of a preconceived prejudice or point of view. Let’s allow for constructive communication to help us push through the situation that we’re facing as far as racial unrest is concerned.
We asked Julaine what she thinks the right next steps are for leaders to be taking. Here’s what she said:
Leaders should seek out information to help create or establish their own diversity, equity and racial inclusion policies within their organizations.
First, get some training. Second, find a reputable consultant to come in and help leaders learn what is happening in this area and then establish some policies within your organization.
These will then create an environment where people feel honored and respected. In so doing, this puts an emphasis on racial reconciliation, helping people feel included, like they are heard and seen. This is something we as leaders can do right now.
BE A GENEROUS LEADER
Generosity is the antidote to greed. If we as leaders were to embrace what it means to be a generous leader, willing to share our time, knowledge and general resources, transformation would take place. (11 Generous Leader standards defined in S.O.U.L. Plan Framework)
If you have employees coming to work, they’re aware of what’s going on in the world, and as leaders, we can create a safe place for employees to come and to talk and to share their concerns, fears, frustrations, angers and disappointments; it really does build relationships among your employees and that’s something we can do right away.
We don’t need a major initiative. Open up a dialogue for employees to share what’s on their hearts as they are processing all that it is going on in the world right now. Sit down and chat. Give people an opportunity where they feel like they have a voice and they can express what’s on their heart – it’s a generous thing to do.
History has proven that the advancement of God’s Kingdom often accelerates during times of crisis or adversity. For such a time as this, what at an honor it is to truly be ministers of God in the marketplace!
Interested in hearing more from Julaine? You’re in luck! A few months ago, our team traveled to Seattle to feature Julaine’s story in a Kingdom At Work Film. We are honored and excited to share that with you now! You can also visit julainesmith.com to follow along with Julaine and the work she is doing.