Leadership Equity

Daniel Starr, the CEO of Bogden Enterprises, was proud of the equity efforts of his company. For him, equity was not a mandate but a passion. He had grown up in a coal camp where mine workers came from Europe. They were imported as strike breakers when the natives of the community went on strike. When the Europeans also went on strike, the coal companies brought in African Americans. They also went on strike. The bonding over the strike created a community where diversity was treasured.

Starr often reflected on his early years. While the community treasured bonding, everyone in the community was not treated equitably. African Americans did not receive the public education that others received. There was also religious tension and the European immigrants, who were costly, were denied permission to use the Protestant church for their services. While the local Protestants church goers had no problem with sharing their church, the national headquarters would not allow it.

Starr was being interviewed for a national podcast about his equity efforts in growing future leaders:

H.C. (interviewer): Could you give us a brief overview of your leadership program?

D.S.    We identify talents from three university types: the top 10, land grant universities, and historic black colleges and universities (HCBU’s). We then take the hires through a 3-year leadership program where they rotate to new assignments every 6 months. Every hire has a mentor. When we see a hire has a leadership deficiency, the hire’s mentor works with him/her on the deficiency.

H.C.    What kind of deficiencies have you found?

D.S.    Other than the normal on boarding issues, we have found some problems when some hires just don’t have basic problem solving skills. I’m not talking about a specific math or technical skill, but how to think through a problem.

H.C.    I guess that’s where your equity philosophy comes in?

D.S.    Yes, what we do is to work with them on their problem solving abilities. There is no shaming or negative reviews.

H.C.    Any other deficiencies?

D.S.    Yes, and that’s the tough one. Some hires just can’t relate to the people they will be managing. It’s difficult for them to overcome their backgrounds. In effect, they are a prisoner of their heritage.

H.C.    How do you help them overcome that?

D.S.    It’s tough. What I’ve done is to go back to my heritage. We built a community of like-values by bringing our diverse work force together on a common assignment. Everyone is equal. Our leadership hires are just another employee as far as the others know. The assignments are intense and through many hours of working together, our new hires begin to understand and value the contributions of those they work with.

H.C.    I’m impressed. You are doing a great job of elevating the status of those who most companies would not return with the deficiencies you mentioned.

D.S.    I’ve got to call you out on your prejudice. The problem hires are not those from land grant universities or HCBU’s. It’s the hires from the top 10 schools where we find the deficiencies.

H.C.    (Stunned) Thank you. I admit my prejudice. You have certainly changed my thinking about equity. It’s not just a boost up, but it’s about helping everyone realize their full potential no matter their background.

Just imagine the pursuit of equity as a transformation process where everyone is changed. Just imagine how the pursuit of equity can become a passion. Just imagine how equity involves a sharing of values no matter your heritage.

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“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of a true education.” Martin Luther King

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