Written by Dr Glen Joseph, Head of Data and Impact
Centre Black recently published a research report into the lived experience of Black-led impact organisations in the UK, which provides valuable insights into the day-to-day affairs of Black leaders.
As part of this research, we noticed many interesting themes emerging around leadership in the Black community. We hope the insights will raise awareness around leadership traits among those looking to set up their businesses or lead on broader issues affecting the Black communities.
In our discussions with these leaders, what came through to us was how the issues raised aligned with Bill George's authentic leadership model. George's model reduced the qualities of leaders into five key dimensions, and the themes which came out of our discussions were in line with these underlying qualities of authentic leaders such as purpose, heart, values, relationships and self-discipline. The five key traits of the model are:
Pursuing their purpose with passion
"But at the same time, it's important for me to be myself and not become someone else in that role; I still want to remain authentic, essentially and also to respect my feelings about things."
The Black leaders we spoke to were passionate about the areas in which they worked. They all had a deep sense of purpose for what they were trying to achieve, partly due to their lived experiences, that is, their personal experiences of the problems they were trying to solve. They were also highly motivated by their work since they all believed in their intrinsic worth.
Practicing solid values
"So you have to be there to stand up for good causes, to stand up for those who can't stand on their own, you know. Otherwise, you don't get anything."
Once Black leaders find the purpose that ignites their passion, mainly through their lived experiences, they stay true to their established values. They acted following these values by making significant sacrifices to stick to them.
Leading with their hearts as well as their heads
"I've been really, really happy to help the community and stand up for the community, not only the French community but also our local community."
Sensitivity to the needs of their communities and a keen willingness to help was highly represented in the sample group of Black leaders. These leaders demonstrated a deep compassion for members of their communities and work colleagues.
Establishing connected relationships
"We work in partnership with the local authority and other stakeholders. In this country, if you don't dare, you don't get anything, you don't receive anything."
Enduring relationships based on their connectedness with stakeholders is the trademark of Black leadership. They achieve this by being open, sharing and committed to these relationships to achieve their goals.
"I suppose one of the most useful bits of advice I had around leadership was just to be calm in the face of things being upside down because nobody's instilled with confidence by a leader who's emotionally just on a roller coaster."
High levels of focus and discipline typify the Black leaders' style of engagement. They are very focused on their goals and consistently move forward towards those goals, even in the face of significant setbacks such as the COVID 19 pandemic.
In a system that undersupports and underfunds Black-led organisations, we need to ensure that this traits are consistently fostered and developed to ensure best practice and outcomes for the underserved communities these Black lived experience leaders work in.
"I'm actually going through some training in that area [leadership]. And that's because of a fund that we had applied for. I thought, oh, hang on. It'd be good actually to go deeper into this because leadership is really important. What is the leader? What makes a good leader, examples of charity leaders? Sometimes we get that we're leaders; I just think we forget that. You need to be reminded, and your skills need to be refreshed."
Some of our Black leaders were unaware that they possessed these essential traits associated with authentic leaders. We hope Black leaders are encouraged by the information provided in this blog and commit to leadership development programmes, such as the Common Call Lived Experience Fellowship Programme, to unearth and develop these areas of their authentic leadership skills.