Ethnic Minority Leadership

Leadership: Values in Action*

Contrasts transformational diversity leadership and its collaborative organization behaviors with those of more traditional top-down' leadership; Discusses the importance of values, vision.

By Thomas A. Gordon, PhD

"The imperative is to define what is right and to do it."
-Barbara Jordan

Diversity Leadership

Leadership is sometimes framed as mostly a matter of "top level" authority, position, rank, recognition, title, power, privileges and perks. Leaders "hold" seats at important places and "run" things. Followers "implement and comply". This "leadership as noun" model won't help us much to drive our APA diversity initiatives. The model is too hierarchical, too static, too slow, and too exclusionary. It draws upon historical paradigms that did not truly respect the power and potential of diversity.

We need leadership among visibly diverse people, who demonstrably trust, build, and leverage collaborative effort. We particularly need strong leadership from the relatively newcomer professionals of color now joining APA's diversity strategy and initiative circles. We need breakthrough strategies, vibrant energy, and decisive commitments (not committee member compliance) to establish diversity as integral to all that we stand for and do. Don't sign on now to "hold" a committee seat, to comply, or to "run" things precisely your way. Diversity prompts us to aim for the best approaches, ideas, energies, and synergies -and these are apt to emerge from respectful, actively collaborative work. Leadership, then, is much more than a static noun.

Leadership is an action "verb": It sponsors profound, life-defining, life-affirming thought and movement throughout, on, and in the world. It champions, rallies, directs, advances, and inspires people to achieve extraordinary aspirations, accomplishments and life success. It serves sustainable success. Are you ready to lead? If so, then you're ready to "serve" (not "run") the success of our diversity initiatives.

Leadership delivers its core purpose, influence, and power through the dynamic interplay of people, process, performance, and paradigm exchanges. Paradigms are deep cultural traditions, models, and master codes that orchestrate all life opportunities, challenges, and human choice. Core aspirations/values represent the essential leadership compass for high impact, paradigm and performance navigation. Do you hold diversity dear? Do you know, specifically, how diversity, led well, creates new perspectives and value for APA? Are you ready to challenge diversity dysfunctions and oversights within APA's historical paradigms and approaches? Are you ready to establish diversity as integral, not optional, to all that we stand for and do? If so, you're ready to lead and act from a clearly defined and "owned" value frame. You're ready to put your core values into active play. You're ready to give APA your vision, voice, and best ideas for victory.

Values — the priorities paradigms set or our own — drive and direct all action. We are all cultural fish and agents of choice — thriving, surviving, thrashing about, swimming here or there -seldom appreciating both our personal power and just how wet we are. Leadership, then, requires comprehensive self — and paradigm-mastery. Leaders need to know, grow, think and act deeply, plunging beneath the surface of things — the better to define what is right, to do it; and to move us adaptively and sustainability to places we would not otherwise go.

Sign on to APA's diversity initiatives, if the idea of plunging beneath the surface of things, leading change from your core, partnering with highly diverse colleagues, and developing personal perspective/mastery lights your fire. Of course, you'll share your cultural roots and stories, as you jointly craft strategy. Of course, you'll regularly debate priorities and tactics with partners who won't always see eye to eye with you. We're promoting active, not spectator, collaboration.

Leadership develops our self- and systems-capacities for in-paradigm and paradigm shifting success. To "win", leaders anticipate and address challenges forthrightly. They model and create highest value thinking and impact. Leaders don't "run" things and "run" alone: They promote collective vision, voice, and victory.

Vision, Voice, Victory

Vision: You see something that just won't fade to distant background or release its grip on your heart, mind, and imagination. It's part dream or aspiration. It's part genuine awareness and concern: You know some thing's got to change — that they are real and symbolic disparities, neglects, inactions, gaps, or needs that deserve priority attention. Something isn't set up right to work right. You know it, and it registers loud and clear for every personal and professional value you hold dear. It may be "reality" for now, but you're ready to put your own values into play, to make a high impact, difference.

Voice: You sense and see something shifting for the better in your organization and/or the communities within which it resides. And the shift your see probably can't be accomplished by you alone. You're ready to create and speak about the right direction, but you know it'll take strong partnership synergies to drive real momentum and change. You sense the path. You feel the possibility. You see people coming into view as potential partners. You expect to, not only gain ground, but to change "reality" for the better — to win.

So, you step up and speak up, because you think differently than most and hold yourself in high, positive regard. You trust your intelligence, diagnostics, and intuition. You'd rather risk being wrong trying to deliver high impact and value than abdicate your responsibility on your watch to address some gaps or absorb the choices of those who, arguing for the status quo, don't really see and feel what you do. Your self-portrait says "Difference Maker". You will be heard.

Victory: In fair weather or foul, leadership is mostly about positioning people to succeed — together. Partners win. Victory is true value -delivered and sustained. Vision, voice, and victory proceed hand in hand. Leaders design vision, direction, and strategy. Their "trumpet" or voice must strike a clear and responsive audience chord. Voice must rally highly diverse people to great effort amidst all manner of noise, dissension, and fog. High diversity. Yet, one message, one sound. Leaders challenge themselves to adapt intelligently, improve rapidly, and innovate. Rather than dominate or control dialogue, leaders embrace diverse, voice exchange. They lead voice harmonizing rather than tolerate sub-optimal silence, covert whisperings, exclusions, or collusion. The choir advances the cause and needs continuous voice — the leader's and its own.

Leadership victory mostly rests on the collaborative creation of impact and value. This means leaders must be decisively clear, solutions-focused, partnership-proficient, and attuned to genuine value sustainability. It is not enough to attend and sit through meetings, rallying people to produce only traditional, short-term, ceremonial gains. It is not enough to score recognition, resume, and achievement points at the expense of long-term community, organizational, personal health.

Leaders transform paradigms. They honor people. They challenge collusion and non-substantive exclusions. They promote constructive processes. They champion distinctive performance. Leadership vision, voice, and victory, then, reflect and bolster partnership synergies, community and/or organizational collaboration, highest value achievement, and the continual will to win. We hope you’re ready to lead.


*With permission of the author and editors, this paper is reprinted from Cathy McDaniels Wilson & Jennifer Kelly (Eds.), Implementing a diversity initiative in State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Associations: A handbook for SPTAs: 2009 Edition. (Available from APA Division 31, State, Provincial & Territorial Psychological Affairs)