Are you the leader you’ve been looking for?

October has become synonymous with Black History Month. Stimulating gatherings where the contributions of Black people are recognised, the need for increased BAME representation is acknowledged, and thoughts generated on what needs to change.

AND we want to challenge both Black leaders and companies to look beyond the one-month-a-year scenario. The environment is not changing anytime soon. We continue to be underrepresented at various levels of leadership in all professions. The prognosis varies from sector to sector. Some say that it will take 50 years to see the change! So “What are we as Black Leaders doing individually and collectively that needs to be different?

In the leaders we coach we noticed a trend. They are often attached to how things should be – ‘it should be fair’, ‘I should be treated like anyone else’, ‘I should get the promotion as long as my performance is good’, (And please remember we are all already busy working twice as hard!). And yes, it should be this way but it is not.  We fail through denial.  Many Black leaders toil away thinking it is all about a great performance. However, Harvey Coleman’s research shows that hard graft accounts for only a shocking 10% of what really matters in career enhancement. {Listen to Shirley’s podcast on what really matters}. It’s no wonder so many Black leaders are tired, frustrated, lacking confidence and/or have checked out.

Why are we willing to wait when it’s not for lack of talent, qualifications or capability of black leaders? Can we please come up with a ‘hack’ for those who are struggling in silence? Black leaders need to pay more attention to what is needed from the inside – their personal development, not just the outside.

Our work with our clients is to really appreciate the inner and outer landscape together. To uncover what we call the Expectation Gap: what they want to happen versus what is actually happening?  To evaluate their behaviour, unchecked assumptions and false beliefs that they may hold about their organization or work colleagues. This can lead to some liberating, albeit painful realisations. When they truly understand what is happening they can then develop a strategy for being successful in that system.  They do this through their own personal vision and journey to success.  There is so much more room for this work to be done amongst Black Leaders, individually and collectively.

Maybe you can start by asking yourself what is your ‘Expectation Gap”? What are your assumptions and how do they impact your behavior?

Additionally, we can have that conversation collectively. We work to create opportunities for the deeper systemic work to be done with Black Leaders. Recently we successfully initiated a partnership with Windsor Leadership Trust that led to the development of the pioneering ‘Inspiring Black and Asian Leaders Programme. This six-month development for senior leaders starts with a leadership retreat at Windsor Castle.

Culturally many are not used to this level of support. They are often amazed at the impact it will have on how they see themselves. Our vision is that the leaders we work with develop a different relationship to their challenges and a more empowering narrative about who they are as leaders today and in the future, written by themselves and not another study!

The time is right. The conversation on race has opened up in a different way since Brexit and Trump’s Presidency. People are looking for direction, organisations are reviewing their initiatives. We need to support leaders who are already leading to step up to more strategic roles and to make a stand for what they believe in. Are you ready to dive within?

Martha Cuffy is a multi-lingual executive coach, leadership facilitator and wellness specialist. Follow her on Instagram MarthaJCuffy

Shirley McAlpine is a business consultant, executive coach, leadership facilitator and podcaster. Her podcast “She Got’s Drive” can

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