What does it mean to Lead with Equity?

girl studying

“Lead with Equity – that’s a cool company name.”

I get this a lot. Sometimes people want to know how we came up with it. The simple answer: my gut. It came to me one evening, and I thought it was catchy. I bounced it off my partner and a few others, and everyone agreed. It stuck.

Then I started talking to more people about the work Lead with Equity does. I’ve talked to dozens of people over the last few months: friends, former colleagues, people I met at networking events, and potential clients. I asked them about the challenges their organizations were facing with equity, inclusion, and leadership. 

From these conversations, I’ve learned that when I talk about Leading with Equity, I’m thinking about a specific set of leadership competencies. Competencies are the knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed to do a particular job. In this case, the job is to be a leader who centers equity in everything you do.

What many people (especially well-intentioned white people) get wrong about Leading with Equity, is they think it’s about being a nice person. Instead, we should think about it as a set of competencies that can be learned.

Imagine thinking that your ability to perform Excel functions doesn’t matter, as long as you really care about them and mean well. It’s ridiculous, right? You would never see someone’s performance evaluation say: “they were really well intentioned when presenting powerpoint, so they’re getting a top rating in that area even though they fumble through it every time.”

The great thing about thinking about Leading with Equity as a set of competencies, is that competencies can be learned. Everyone has the ability to acquire them, and everyone has the ability to get better at them over time. That’s pretty encouraging, right?

If you see Leading with Equity as a set of competencies, then you can assess which ones you have more or less of. You can seek training or coaching to help you gain the ones you don’t have. Organizations can build their hiring, promotion, and evaluation systems around this set of competencies, and hold leaders accountable.

I’ve had multiple opportunities over my career to build competency models for organizations. It’s a rigorous process. You identify top performers, interview them, conduct focus groups, draft models, revise, validate, and revise again. These competency models have been used in hiring, training, evaluating, and promoting people. 

Over the coming months, I’ll be validating my Lead with Equity competency list with a focus group of leaders. I’ll be publishing them here along with examples of what these skills and behaviors look like in real life.

Stay tuned for the series!

Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

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