Category: Equity-Centered Leadership

Equity-Centered Leadership—Change and Self-Care

A team working with equity-centered leadership. “One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.” — Robert E. Quinn

Would you like to be viewed as a guardian of equity?  The kind of leader who doesn’t create an environment that’s simply “accommodating,” but is actually brave enough to transform the environment.

This is easier said than done. In order for this to happen, we must transform how we operate and learn to acknowledge everyone’s voice. What’s your situation? Whether it’s a classroom, office environment, community event, or some other location, we all struggle with sustainable change. How can we as leaders play our part?

The answer: become an equity-centered leader. That was the topic of my last two posts, where we covered three steps in the “equicentric” leadership model. There are five processes to this model: name it, activate self-awareness, remember the past, commit to change, and schedule self-care. 

Using this model you can become a more adaptable leader. The “equicentric” leadership model was created by Laura Aguada-Hallberg and me with the goal of empowering leaders as they take their journey toward becoming a more equity-centered leader.

Let’s discuss the fourth and fifth steps in this model.  

Step Four in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Commit to Change 

Committing to change in equity-centered leadership.Too often, we’re unknowingly shaped by others in ways that don’t serve our higher purpose. Author Zaretta Hammond, in her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, says that we each carry an array of narratives that can act like “software” in our brains. These narratives are in place to tell us how to behave in different contexts. 

According to the book, these narratives are often dominated by what she calls a “master narrative,” that is, society’s idea of how a person should act.  Hammond says that everyone needs to form a counternarrative, based on their personal identity and experiences, that rejects any misconceptions in the “master narrative.”

That’s why, in this step, we ask leaders to construct their own counternarrative that acknowledges how their experiences might inform their actions. At this point, we also ask that they make a commitment to lead with equity as their goal. We check in with the leaders over a six-month period to see how their counternarrative has evolved.

Step Five in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Schedule Self-Care

Self care in equity-centered leadership.It’s impossible to be an equity-centered leader without a consistent schedule of self-care, without it, you will only find yourself frustrated and burnt-out. Do you feel like your health, personal relationships, or workload are unsustainable? If you do, then that’s where you need to start. 

Be sure to schedule a time for self-care in your calendar, and honor that time. It should be non-negotiable: that time is sacred. Finally, you should know that the work that you put into your self-care ensures that you can be there for your community in the long-term. How can you encourage others to believe in their self-worth if you consistently neglect your own?

Moving Foward 

In my experience, leaders are often left with very little time for self-reflection, which leaves them constantly in a reactive state. To my mind, that’s the true value of this model: it forces us to think proactively about equity. 

It’s only when we can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, even when that discomfort is the awareness of our own biases, that we can begin to challenge, and with any luck change long-standing systemic inequities. It takes time and focused effort to learn how to be an intentional leader. 

Equity-centered leadership coaching is an integral part of my work at the Center for Learning Leaders. If you’re ready to make changes and lead with intention and integrity please contact me. 

As leaders, we all want to play a part in creating sustainable practices that have the power to transform our communities. 

 

Equity-Centered Leadership—Self-Awareness and Remembrance

A woman thinking about equity-centered leadership. “Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.” – Debbie Ford

Have you ever wondered, “How can I be the type of leader who asks all the tough questions, challenges the status quo, and call out biases, even when it’s uncomfortable?”

The answer: become an equity-centered leader. That was the topic we covered in my last post, where we reviewed the first of five steps in the “equicentric” leadership model. There are five processes that fuel this “equicentric” leadership model: name it, activate self-awareness, remember the past, commit to change, and schedule self-care. 

I believe that, through the effective use of this model, you can become a more dynamic and adaptable leader. The “equicentric” leadership model was created by Laura Aguada-Hallberg and me with the goal to empower and support leaders as they take their self-reflective journey toward becoming a more equity-centered leader.

Let’s discuss the second and third steps in this model.  

Step Two in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Activate Self-Awareness 

Self-awareness in equity-centered leadership.There’s an old truism which points out that in order to change the world you first must change yourself. This is something that all effective leaders must understand at some level. However, before there can be change, there must be self-awareness, and that’s where the second step of the model comes in.

In this step, leaders name their biases and reflect on how they affect their power, privilege, and behavior. In order for leaders to transform a system, they must first identify their own biases and assumptions relating to that system. Otherwise, there can be no real change. 

This doesn’t mean that we should feel guilty about the power and privilege we hold, nor is it about feeling sorry for ourselves or pitying others. Self-awareness is an opportunity to recognize and call out experiences we’ve internalized, as well as understand when we move in and out of positions of power. 

When we ask leaders to engage in this step, we have them share an experience where some bias or privilege influenced their behavior. This step can be difficult. Although we all readily admit that we have biases, naming them and exposing their effects can be painful. But unless we push ourselves and experience some discomfort, we can’t move forward.

Step Three in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Remember the Past 

Remember the past in equity-centered leadership.What experiences have shaped your relationship with equity? This step is about looking back to prior experiences to find what insights they give us. For example, have you experienced a moment of stunned silence, vocal anger, a difficult conversation, or some other reaction to inequity that still sits with you today? What, if anything, do you want to do or have already done about it? 

When we look back to gain insight on how our past experiences have shaped us, we become better prepared to build our counternarrative.

The next steps toward becoming a more equity-centered leader are to commit to change and schedule self-care. We’ll be discussing these steps in future posts on equity-centered leadership. Equity-centered leadership coaching is an integral part of my work at the Center for Learning Leaders. If you’re ready to make changes and lead with intention and integrity please contact me. 

Equity-Centered Leadership—What Is It? And How Is It Cultivated?

Equity-centered leadership: From awareness to commitment

We’ve all admired leaders who are willing to ask the tough questions, challenge the status quo when it isn’t working, and call out long-standing biases, even when it’s uncomfortable. What enables these leaders to do so? And how can you become that kind of leader?

These leaders are equity-centered, or what UCLA professor of education Pedro Noguera calls “guardians of equity.” In other words, they have equity at the core of all their work.

In the context of this discussion, what is equity? (We’re going to be using equity in education as our example setting, but these principles apply to many different contexts.) UNESCO’s “Handbook on Measuring Equity in Education,” says that equity “considers the social justice ramifications of education in relation to the fairness, justness and impartiality of its distribution at all levels or educational sub-sectors.” And according to the handbook, equity is measurable, which is extremely valuable as it allows us to make comparisons of equity.  

Although these measurements are important, leaders should go beyond just tracking metrics on equity issues, equity is also a felt and lived experience. That’s why social-emotional learning is vital to improving the culture of organizations. 

How do you become an equity-centered leader?

This requires some introspection from those of us in leadership roles. Of course, most leaders have little time to spend reflecting on their personal relationship with issues of equity. However, it’s vital that we become aware of how our identity and experiences shape our approach to issues of equity. Why? Because we can not disrupt inequities if we don’t understand our relationship to them. 

That’s why Laura Aguada-Hallberg, the Interim Assistant Dean for Learning, Leadership, & Change Programs at the University of the Pacific, and I developed a five-step process for “equicentric” leaders. The goal of this process is to empower and support leaders as they take their self-reflective journey toward equity-centered leadership.

There are five processes that fuel this “equicentric” leadership model: name it, activate self-awareness, remember the past, commit to change, and schedule self-care. Let’s discuss the first process. 

Step One in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Name It

This first step is all about reflecting on and naming our experiences—especially the ones that relate to our perception of equity. We do this by trying to “step outside of ourselves” and look back to see our life with fresh eyes. When we do this it becomes easier to name our experiences in ways that resonate with the experiences of others.

When we work with leaders on this step, we ask them to list all the elements that define their identity and to name as many as they can. Then, we ask them: “What connections are you making between your identity, your culture and our previous conversation about the definitions of equality, fairness, and equity?” 

Finally, they create their own categories and labels for their identity and experiences. We ask the participants to identify things like gender, cultural background, and job title that contribute to how they see the world and how the world sees them. Leaders must acknowledge, accept, and recognize these influences in order to understand and lead others. 

During this step, it’s important to identify all of your labels, every category you fit in, and use them as a critical entry point to begin to understand who you are. In leadership discussions, I often encounter microaggressions that reflect a lack of awareness. For example, a leader might say, “I was raised by a single mom and I was able to achieve this goal, so others should be able to do the same.” This simplification that reduces all experiences into singular aspects of a person can be harmful to others in both action and policy. Without a deeper awareness of the many contributing factors that make up oneself, a true understanding of others is much more difficult. 

The next step toward becoming a more equity-centered leader is to activate self-awareness. We’ll be discussing this, in a future post on equity-centered leadership. Equity centered leadership coaching is an integral part of my work at the Center for Learning Leaders. If you’re ready to make sustainable changes and lead with intention, integrity, and in alignment with your purpose, please contact me.

Louise J Santiago, PhD
Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant

Where Leadership is Intentional Work

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