Since the start of the GSBA Scholarship Fund's formal commitment to ongoing leadership development work with scholars more than six years ago, our definition of what "leadership development" looks like has continued to evolve. One of the challenges to developing leadership development programming is that the very definition of leadership is somewhat objective. Each of us have a personal perspective of what qualities are important in a leader. Depending on our context, the qualities we look for in a leader might be: someone who is inspiring, confident, accountable, empathetic, a good decision maker, creative, a good communicator, honest, loyal, humble, a team player, and the list goes on and on.
At GSBA, it has been important for us to question who has historically crafted these definitions and qualities of leadership and who has been left out. How has a culture of white supremacy shaped our definition of leadership and the qualities we look for in a leader?
With that in mind, the focus of this month's leadership development programming was Exploring the Intersections of Mental Health, Identity, and Systems of Oppression
facilitated by Lindsey T.H. Jackson
. As the CEO of LTHJ Global
, Lindsey leverages cutting edge research on Inclusive Culture Design + Leadership
principles, teaching methodologies, and human potential design to work with thought-leaders across various industries, cultures, and continents to re-imagine the future of leadership, work and community.
In this workshop, scholars were invited to:
- Reflect on their earliest memories of becoming aware of being asked to adapt to assimilationist culture
- Explore the strategies that they took on at an early age for 'survival', using the
Enneagram of Personalities as a guide for their work
-Identify the subtle ways that they unknowingly internalize the attributes of white supremacy culture and carry these into their families, workplaces, and broader society
-Discuss the individual work necessary to begin dismantling systems of oppression internally, at work, and in our broader society (including the often unnamed fears that lead 'good people' to prop up their privilege)
- Explore how systems of oppression are carried into their relationships, work, study, and communities, and why this negatively impacts their health and well-being
- And develop strategies for promoting self-healing, managing anxiety, and empowering the next generation of social reform and justice
At the core of this workshop was developing an understanding of the many ways that marginalized people are asked to carry the burden of a building a double consciousness - constantly working twice as hard to prove that they are just as good in a society rooted in white heteropatriarchal supremacy culture.
Scholars were asked to explore how the attributes of white supremacy culture identified by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun (2001) - perfectionism, sense of urgency, defensiveness, quantity over quality, worship of the written word, paternalism, either/or thinking, fear of open conflict, individualism, worship of unlimited growth, objectivity, and avoidance of discomfort - have shown up for them. In relation to these qualities of a white supremacist culture - what aspects of their personal identities were valued, cultivated and rewarded and what aspects were not rewarded?
To say that these conversations were heavy would be an understatement. Many scholars expressed feeling exhausted and overextended not only because of this constant extra work of making themselves palatable within white supremacy culture, but to then also have the added layer of COVID-related stress - it's no wonder so many of us are at our breaking point.
One scholar shared, "Having some room for giving ourselves a break is hard to come by these days. My therapist says take a rest, but don't they always? All my professors are talking about how these are extraordinary times and that we should show ourselves compassion because nothing is business as usual - right before they assign 100 pages of reading and a five-page research paper due in a few days with inflexible deadlines! There were some pretty impactful things said tonight that I really needed to hear. The energy of the event was on point, and I was actively engaged with the content. Thanks for holding space for all of us to let out a heavy sigh."
So today we are sighing and leaning into the reality that while each of us as marginalized people may be having these same or similar experiences, one way to fight the system is naming these realities and coming together as a community to hold space for us all to heal. We look forward to being able to provide more spaces like this in the future for our scholars to hold community and foster these critical conversations about dismantling the systems which hold us all back.
Lindsey T.H. Jackson
is a GSBA member, artist, storyteller, and social scientist who works to empower individuals to reach their fullest potentials across all areas of their lives. Last year, GSBA and Lindsey came together to create the webinar series Keeping It Real with Lindsey T.H. Jackson, which explores critical issues to help conscious business leaders reach their fullest potential. Click here to watch past episodes.