Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
On MLK day, I reflect on the power of individuals to strengthen our communities. Summoning that power is more important today than ever before.
RACE RELATIONS AND THE ROLE OF ORGANIZATIONS
There is no denying that diversity, equity and inclusion, or more commonly the lack there of, has been at the core of many corporate and political missteps. It has also been an underlying factor in race relations across this nation.
Yes, it is important for us to realize that organizations, yours and mine, must be at the forefront of change. It is critical that companies step up and be at the vanguard to drive societal change in the vacuum that’s being created by government.
They need to, and are positioned to, take a bold stance on issues that directly impact their employees, clients, customers and communities. And while this is something companies are not necessarily used to doing, it is something that very much needs to be done and their employees and customers expect it.
…AND THE ROLE OF INDIVIDUALS
However, we are ALL responsible for strengthening our communities, holding organizations accountable and leading the way to a better future. Each one of us plays a role in this pursuit and we can work together to drive progress. And what better day to make that commitment than today as we remember Dr Martin Luther King Junior.
Because, when it comes down to it the companies I am talking about – the organizations I am saying need to step up and stand up for diversity and inclusion – these companies are made up of people. They are simply a collection of individuals – of you and me.
CHANGE IS POSSIBLE!
Sometimes we can look at systems – entrenched racism, sexism, able-ism, homophobia – and it is natural to feel isolated and powerless in the face of the systemic change we want and need to make. But it IS possible to make inroads – even to radically transform systems. I have seen it myself.
Every single one of us is uniquely positioned to impact change.
We need to look around us, and look for what we can influence.
We need to look for allies, and find our power.
We need to look into ourselves, and learn to be models of introspection and self-awareness.
We need to realize and acknowledge our unearned privilege. And not just from a racial perspective, but from every perspective.
I believe that each individual can be a leader wherever you find yourself.
You do not need to be a top executive. You can be a student, a community organizer, a front line worker, a middle manager.
What makes effective leaders is authenticity.
People follow those they see as authentic.
They follow those they see as willing to step out and take a risk.
Those who are willing to be challenged and who are ready to change themselves.
Those who are propelled as much by a concern for the rights and well-being of those around them as they are for themselves.
Those who listen, who accept help and who take responsibility for making change where they can.
We have a lot to do. Yes, we have made strides – but we know, there is still a lot to do.
It’s important to remind ourselves that progress is afoot. We sustain our gains by speaking loudly about the benefits of our work in the community.
But now it is time to look forward. Imagine the impact we could have, if each of us took stock of where we stand, and what we can influence.
EVERY STEP COUNTS; NO MATTER HOW SMALL
What is YOUR sphere of influence?
What can YOU shape and shift and change?
What are YOUR sources of power? Are you leveraging them to your full potential?
YOU can ensure that our workplaces and our communities are nurturing and safe places. Sometimes it can feel as though the small things we are doing are not making a dent in the wider world. But that isn’t true. I can tell you from my 30-year career perspective, our advocacy has made and is making a difference. Every step counts no matter how small
We are furthering the cause for inclusion in our communities and together we are helping millions of people fulfill their potential. Slowly but surely, we are building a world of compassion, empathy and respect.
Because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”