An individual’s identity informs all actions they take as a leader. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why exploring and owning one’s racial identity is a crucial step to becoming an effective leader in the workplace and community.
As organizations develop future leaders, it’s vital to consider the role racial identity and equity play in their success and impact. In today’s complex society, leaders often have to embody multiple characteristics to have a positive impact on those around them.
Black people, in particular, are expected to be politically and socially savvy as well as sensitive to other cultures. As the world becomes more and more diverse, racial inequity and bias are ever present at every level of society.
To fight this issue, organizations should explore the correlation between race and leadership and how they can best leverage this relationship to improve the environment for their employees or members.
Exploring Racial Identity
New research reveals positive and long-lasting effects on young people when they’re given the opportunity and tools to explore their background, in particular their ethnic-racial identity. Through their findings, they’re able to draw conclusions about who they are and how their background has shaped their upbringing and individuality.
This same study followed the participants for a year and found that those who had explored their racial identity had lower depression rates, higher self-esteem, and better grades.
The results indicate that exploring racial identity from a young age gave participants confidence in who they are and who they could be. According to Camille Charles, a professor that focuses on racial identity, “Identity is informed by where you live and how you’re treated by society.
The more segregation you experience, generally, the less assimilationist you are. What matters most is what people have the least control over: their social-structural context. Residential segregation, exposure to violence, and social disorder had the strongest impact.”
How Racial Identity and Leadership Work Together
Based on these studies, it’s clear that racial identity should be explored when developing leadership in communities and organizations. In order for someone to identify and align with the cause, mission, and vision of the collective, they need to see their identity represented in some way.
While this can certainly be accomplished by the leader being a person of color, it can also be done by creating an environment in which black people are able to have conversations about race without fear or discomfort. Through open discussion, people can recognize that while there are differences between us, they don’t have to divide us.
Black people should feel proud of their identity, and this is best accomplished by exploring what makes an individual who they are and what environmental factors shaped them.
Understanding one’s own identity is vital to becoming an effective leader, and leaders are important in the fight against racial bias and injustice. Racial equity is an attainable goal, but it must happen from the leaders at the top of the organization down.