By Caitlyn Gudmundsen, Senior Manager of Program Development and Outreach
Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, which is promoting diversity and inclusion through servant leadership.
LSS of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan CEO Héctor Colón wrote a recent op-ed in the Milwaukee Business Journal. In his op-ed, Colón calls on business leaders to adopt characteristics of a servant leader to create a work environment that welcomes open conversation about race and effectively promotes equity.
Colón says that after events like the death of George Floyd and discussions about racial equity that follow, well-intended leaders are compelled to “change policies, develop affinity groups, and require training” within the organizations they lead. Unfortunately, these programs and typical ways of addressing racial inequity have shown to be ineffective. With an organizational commitment to race equity, LSS of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan has chosen to look at diversity and inclusion differently. Colón is looking to “Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders” by Larry Spears. This article suggests enhancing diversity and inclusion programs with five characteristics: awareness, listening, healing, empathy, and commitment to the growth of people.
Héctor Colón believes that self-awareness is critical, and “foundational to authentic relationships” which are at the center of in-depth conversations and openness to growing and changing. He is working to create an environment that encourages self-reflection, and listening rather than top down approaches to addressing racial inequity; he believes this collaborative approach can help foster healing. Colón suggests to readers of his op-ed that they find safe places with people with whom they can share their hurts, and find ways to connect with others who have different past experiences, so they can learn to empathize with people who are different from themselves.
Thank you to LSS of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan for your ongoing commitment to racial equity, and to CEO Héctor Colón for leading the organization thoughtfully through this critical time of self-reflection.