One Change I’ve Made with Equity and Inclusion in Mind

I used to have a slide in my leadership presentations which read:

The clear path to greatness:

  1. Deliver (both what’s expected of you, and what you’ve promised)
  2. Be your own source of accountability

I even wrote a blog post about this a while back.

The premise is straightforward and mostly true for many people:

So few people are consistently reliable without outside accountability that you can really set yourself apart simply by being that person.

In sessions, I might elaborate in a dramatic fashion by saying something like

“This is it—the secret! Those of you who do these two things will get the awards, the promotions, the special opportunities, and the inside track! Just do what you say you will do, and what you’re told to do, without ever having to be reminded, and the WORLD IS YOURS! Others will look at you and think ‘ugh, she gets everything. The leader is playing favorites again.’ But they’ll be WRONG! What looks like playing favorites to others is really just rewarding the people who are the most consistently reliable. This is all you have to do!”

It made sense…to me.

Then one time while giving that “inspiring speech” to a group of high-potential teens, my eyes connected with a Black girl, who looked back at me. And when I said, “That’s all you have to do!” her eyes got big. She smiled a little and cocked her head back at me as if to say, “Oh, really, sir? That’s the only reason some people get preferential treatment?”

That was a moment of painful realization.

I based the two step path to greatness on a piece of writing that really resonated with my own experience. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original piece, but I think someone similar to me with a similar experience wrote it.

I still believe in these two keys to success.

But I was over-stating how foolproof they are, and so I’ve backed off from including them in a dramatic fashion.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

4 Responses

  1. Adam
    | Reply

    I think neurological as well as demographical diversity needs to be considered in your words as well. For example, students/people with ADHD (and many others) might really struggle to follow through with that whole “without being reminded” thing. I think you’re trying to acknowledge here the difficulty that some might have with what others of us see as simple; there are a lot more barriers and layers of complexity to this than just skin color, though obviously in our American society that can be a pretty big one.

    Thanks for these reflective thoughts.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      Adam – I feel like you are in my head. After the final edit of this post, I thought “huh, this also would make someone with ADHD feel like a failure” but made the decision to keep it focused on the original event that provoked the reason I made the change. It is, however, another reason I’m glad I have made it.

      I am really glad you brought this up as an addendum to the post. Neurodiversity is an under-considered issue. Thanks for making time to further the education.

  2. Mark Pries
    | Reply

    Important interior and timely work Alan. Appreciate the vulnerability in the dialog with Adam you’ve provided. When a 35 yr old Black American said early in his presentation, “I was born into slavery,” he had my full attention.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      Thank you, Pastor Mark.

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