In a 2019 report: Being Black in Corporate America, Key Findings uncovered that Black professionals are more ambitious than their white counterparts. Yet they are nearly 6 times as likely to hold the opinion that someone of their race can never achieve a top job in their company. With only .03% of the Fortune 500 CEO positions held by Black Americans that opinion is not surprising. Add to that the findings that well over 50% of Black Americans report that they have experienced prejudice at work, and the fact that white professionals report greater access to senior leaders, and you can see the dilemma that black professionals face. Additionally this report described black professionals as the group most likely to experience microaggressions at work.

The diminished opportunities and prejudicial treatment are having predictable results; 35% of black professionals plan to leave their jobs in the next two years. Not surprising given the additional findings that black professionals report they have to work harder to advance. Less than half of all professionals feel that their companies have effective diversity and inclusion policies. 

The actions suggested in this report are essential elements of the leadership shift that is required for America to move in a new direction. A direction that was called out in the preamble to the constitution: “…in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice,… and secure the blessings of liberty.”  

Leadership in all organizations must ensure that they fully understand the words to the preamble, and the steps they must take to ensure their workplaces allow for equal opportunities for the blessings of liberty. Only then can we hope to form the more perfect union promised so long ago. 

The suggested transformative solutions outlined in Being Black in Corporate America are a good place for leaders to begin. Viewing those steps through the Meaning-Centered Leadership lens of Engagement, Empowerment, and Expertise provides an opportunity for leaders to undertake these transformative changes. 

The first transformative solution suggested in this report calls for leaders to audit their organizations for the current state for black employees. Engagement, the first “E” in Meaning-Centered Leadership  calls for leaders to build trusting relationships by demonstrating trust, showing care and concern, and actively listening. Meaning-Centered Leaders create an environment that builds opportunities for trusting relationships to flourish throughout the organization. Leaders who have built trusting relationships and actively listen to their organizational members will be in a strong position to audit their organizations through focus groups, interviews and surveys. By examining their organizations attitudes about systemic racism, black identity and racism, leaders can look for gaps in trust and belonging. 

The second E in Meaning-Centered Leadership: Empowerment, calls for leaders to build collaborative vision, recognize others, and lead with enthusiasm. Collaborative visioning allows organizational members to be part of building a vision that becomes an actionable plan that inspires the organization. The second transformative solution offered in this report calls for an awakening through introspection and conversation. Leaders must create collaborative spaces that allow others’ experiences to be acknowledged and validated. In the full report CTI offers resources for organizations to foster that learning.

The third “E” in Meaning-Centered Leadership: Expertise, requires that leaders employ wisdom, optimism, and humility in the expression of leadership. We define wisdom as experience grounded by principle. Those fundamental principles include universal principles and ethical practices. Those principles must also include an acknowledgement that systemic racism has long plagued our nation. Leaders must take steps to ensure their organizations understand and acknowledge the impact of long standing practices that create barriers to opportunity. 

The final transformative solution offered in the report calls on organizations to act. The authors offer that solutions must be co-created with input from all voices. This idea is tied to the universal principle that strength is found in diversity. Meaning-Centered Leaders must employ their expertise in ways that build the diversity within their organizations. They must also have the humility to approach their leadership as a work in progress. A work that must address the storied hegemony of white male dominance and the privilege associated within. Wise and humble leaders will take the steps necessary to transform their organizations. The transformation called for by protesters world wide compels all leaders to act.

For more on how a Meaning-Centered Leadership approach can help guide social justice practices in your organization, use the contact link on this page to connect with us.