Black Leaders Matter: Creating Success for Black Corporate America
Updated: Nov 29, 2021
The recent tragedies against Black Americans that have fueled the latest Black Lives Matter Movement have inspired LEAD360 to expand and communicate our Black Leaders Matter Movement in the form of our Executive Think Tank.
LEAD360 realizes that organizations, including ours, have spent a great deal of time discovering the “why” of the inequities that exist in the corporate world and have not focused adequately on implementing measurable solutions to address them. The Think Tank is our catalyst for inverting the model to focus mainly on solutions.
Simply put, now is the time for action. Below is an executive summary for our article “Now is the Time” that captures the background and rationale for what Dr. Lisa Coleman of NYU describes as “disruptively innovative diversity.” The following section contains an executive summary of LEAD360’s research, involving over 150 middle managers and executive leaders.
Executive Summary the LEAD360 Executive Think Tank - We applaud the great work of Michael C. Hyter, Chief Diversity Officer for Korn Ferry, and the Executive Leadership Council for taking an exhaustive look at the rationale for the lack of profit and loss roles for Black corporate leaders. The Korn Ferry research confirms our earlier findings and creates an even broader finding for our agile approaches.
In 2012, we began to focus our efforts on how to create success for Black executives. Organizations such as Liberty Mutual, Gilead, Whirlpool, EA Sports, Medtronic, Genentech, New York University, Georgetown University, and others helped launch this effort.
Since 2012, LEAD360 has collaborated with successful Black corporate and academic leaders to create what is now known as our LEAD360 Executive Think Tank. The purpose of our first session, held at Cornell University, was to understand why Black executives have a difficult time converting their education, training, and experience into E-suite and C-suite roles. The team determined that significant challenges existed in five major areas:
C-Suite Sponsorship & Support
External Executive Education
Bias in hiring, promotion, and job sustainability
Fearfulness of Black Executives to mentor the next generation
Five years later, we conducted a focus group with 38 Black senior executives to determine if the previous observations were still valid and if there were signs of progress. The team validated the challenges and concluded that advancement was stagnant. We then challenged ourselves to define what internal and external forces presented causation for the conditions.
The Answer: Focus on solutions; not activity - Most recently, in 2019, the Think Tank convened a culturally diverse group of executives at Georgetown University to begin developing solutions rather than defining challenges. Again, our cohort of line and staff executives concluded that there had been no advancement for Black leaders. You can find the results of this work in the LEAD360 Executive Think Tank white paper. After spending time understanding the issues and exploring solutions, we established the following insight:
Stop researching. Start Innovating - It is a waste of time and money in following antiquated strategies that attempt todefinewhat we already know. Corporations must be willing to quicklyimplementradically innovative strategies to address the bias and systemic barriers that prevent Black leaders from advancing to E-suite and C-suite roles. However, we find that the following areas are essential to changing the current trend.
Create measurable strategies: Outcomes, numbers, and timelines -In 2016, women demanded more inclusion within the C-suite, on corporate boards, and in managerial roles. Today, many companies laud the accomplishment of reaching the goal of fifty percent women in such roles. However, when it comes to Black inclusion, the narrative shifts to the qualitative measure of “belonging.” This difference reflects the strategic bias forwarded by those who demonized quotas. However, if it works with targeting a segment of women, we are confident we can take the same approach to increase the number of Black executives.
Use innovation to engage and develop executive leadership pipeline: Beyond HR - As seen with the NFL’s effort to hire more Black head coaches, the concept of simply increasing interview slates of potential Black executives is highly ineffective. To increase representation at the senior levels, the process must include the decision-makers from the start. Otherwise, we will keep losing the battle to the highly prejudicial practice of “relationship hiring” by the time the candidate interviews with the hiring team.
Additionally, the statement “we can’t find qualified candidates” exists where organizations have not invested in doing so. Ironically, Blacks feel that there are limit systems that make them aware of available P&L opportunities that are available within their divisions, companies, or industries. There appears to be a very real gap between the inclusive companies and these exceptional P&L ready leaders. One suggestion may come from Stan Blackwell and Gilead Sciences, Inc.. Blackwell advocates for “talent communities,” a system that allows passive job seekers the opportunity to learn about a company they are interested in until they are ready to apply. LEAD360 supports this model as a best practice and is working to make this process available among Black middle managers and senior leaders.
Design realistic E-suite and C-suite education: Beyond the corporation -Executive education is insufficient when it fails to provide a safe space for Black leaders to acknowledge their personal experiences and develop strategies to WYN despite potential barriers related to race. Corporations must have the courage to support professional development training that speaks to more than agile leadership, general management, and generational leadership. The training must incorporate racial inequities and how to navigate despite the challenges.
Where do we go from here? - Join our Movement to increase the success of Black Corporate Leaders LEAD360 realizes that our solutions will not see measurable success in one year. Positive results of our efforts should transpire in a staggered fashion over three to five years. However, we pledge to address the challenges that Black leaders face in accessing the E-suite levels of their organizations. We do this by developing and incubating novel methods to achieve success. Now is the time to act, not the time to talk, investigate, or debate. We welcome inclusive companies and universities to join us in this charge. This way we can truly WYN ANWAY!
- Dr E. Wynstin Walton