No leader wants to be labelled as “out-of-touch,” “closed-minded,” or biased. Unfortunately, employees, peers, and constituents sometimes use these terms to describe their leaders. However, there is another way, a way which involves woke leadership.
Imagine a workplace where leaders are deeply aware, actively challenge questionable events, and stand up for fairness. The term “woke” emerged from a song about a decade ago and gained prominence within the Black Lives Matter movement. Initially, “woke” referred to being keenly aware of social and political issues, especially those related to inequality and injustice. Over time, the definition of “woke” has evolved and become politicized, leading to some people being labelled as “woke” for advocating social justice or engaging in progressive politics. Neuroscience studies suggest that our beliefs and values, including those related to social issues, are deeply ingrained in our brain’s neural networks, shaping our thoughts and actions.
Employees respect and appreciate leaders who are aware of the world around them and take action based on an enlightened perspective. Embracing woke leadership can significantly improve the workplace.
Here are the subtle signs of woke leadership:
1. Caring and Empathy
Being empathetic and caring about others’ well-being is essential for woke leadership. You strive to make a difference and break free from outdated practices or beliefs, leading to positive change when the status quo is wrong.
2. Seeking Understanding
Woke leaders recognize their own limitations and biases, stepping out of their comfort zone to understand the truth. They dig deeper to challenge prevailing narratives and seek alternative perspectives.
3. Refusing to Turn Away
When something is wrong, woke leaders face it head-on without rationalizing, justifying, or making excuses. They courageously address and own the issue.
4. Committing to Intentional Effort
Being a woke leader requires conscious effort and dedication to improvement. Unlike out-of-touch leaders, who may operate without mindfulness, “woke” leaders accept responsibility and actively work on their self-awareness.
5. Valuing Diverse Perspectives
Woke leaders understand the risks of surrounding themselves with like-minded individuals or “yes” people. They embrace diverse perspectives, stories, and experiences, fostering growth and open-mindedness.
6. Acknowledging Blind Spots and Biases
Everyone has blind spots and biases. Woke leaders recognize their own limitations and work on enhancing self-awareness to address these issues.
7. Acting Before Chaos
The ultimate goal of woke leadership is to sense, understand, adapt, and act proactively before situations spiral out of control.
In summary, effective management is about doing things right, while leadership is about doing the right things. Woke leadership focuses on doing the right things, particularly when faced with challenges and injustices.
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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.