No leader aspires to be called “out-of-touch”, “closed-minded” or even biased. It is sad to say that employees, peers, and constituents often use these words to describe their leadership.
Imagine the amazing world of work if our leaders miraculously woke up and became intensely attuned and stood up to questionable events around them.The concept of “woke” was introduced in a song nearly a decade ago and gained prominence within the Black Lives Matter movement. In this context, “”woke” describes keenly attuned leadership that questions the surroundings – especially when disorder and unfairness are present. Employees applaud and appreciate when their leaders wake up to the world around them. “Woke” leaders who take action based on an enlightened perspective would significantly change the workplace for the better.
What does “woke” leadership look like? These are the subtle signs.
You care and it matters.
You possess empathy towards others so becoming “woke” matters to you. Making a difference and breaking away from the way things were before are both important to you. If either the past or status quo is wrong, you lead to make a positive change.
You seek to understand.
You accept you sometimes live in a bubble. Yet, you can see and step out of it. Woke leaders look deeper than the surface to understand the real truth. You gravitate toward a fundamentally different story and challenge the story that is currently being told.
Refusing to turn away from what is in front of you.
Wrong is wrong. You don’t turn your head and look away. You don’t rationalize, justify, or make excuses. Instead, you courageously own and address it.
You know that woke leadership takes intentional effort.
Woke leadership takes work and commitment to do better. Out-of-touch leaders often work without mindfulness or in a state of mental passiveness. Woke leaders do not abdicate or relegate responsibility they should own themselves.
Bring closer the people who give you a different perspective.
Woke leaders know it is risky is to surround yourself with people who are just like you or who tell you “yes” every time. Constant validation is comfortable and boosts your ego but it keeps you playing small. Woke leaders will surround themselves with people who have different perspectives, different stories, and different experiences.
You realize that you have blind spots and biases.
No one is free of either. Woke leadership recognizes that everyone has blind spots and even unintentional, implicit biases. Woke leaders know that enhanced self-awareness allows you to work on lessening blind spots and biases.
You act before the chaos.
The ultimate goal of woke leadership is to sense, grasp, adapt and act before the situation veers off the wrong way.
Remember, Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things. “Woke” leadership is doing the right things – especially when wrong things are all around.
Connie Wedel is a US-based global HR executive, leadership coach, equal rights advocate, global citizen, writer, speaker, and mom. Her background includes working with businesses, leadership, and employees over 6 continents across various industries.
Connie holds an Executive Masters in HR Management from Cornell University. She maintains SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP certifications and teaches Organizational Behavior at the University of California, San Diego., She is periodic contributor Business Insider, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Ellevate Network.