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Calling Cross-Cultural Leaders

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about healing from past job trauma and she asked me what kind of trauma I had experienced. In that moment, I realized as a black woman, I have minimized the impact of the trauma I have experienced and was continuing to do so when I was trying to explain my experiences.

The truth is when I was sharing examples, they sounded so trivial or that was the story I was telling myself, but the experiences were not trivial. They hurt. They impacted my soul. I have had to remove myself from situations because the continual injury became more than I could endure.

When I did voice my concerns in the past, I often felt I wasn’t heard as a woman of color in the way I needed to be. They just didn’t get it. The impact is years and years of experiences not feeling validated due to the lack of cultural awareness to truly understand or empathize what I was feeling and going through and how it was affecting my entire being.

While I would often say things like, “I’m strong enough, other women of color have had to endure far worse in their careers, this is what I need to do to move up, it will get better with leadership change, I have to stay for my students and/or staff,” these were merely mental band aids. These reasons cost me dearly. The cost is losing one’s self, hope and drive.

How could I explain my experiences in a way others could hear me? The better question is, why do I continue to put the responsibility on myself? I want to be heard. I want to be validated. I want and need to talk about this. I want the system to change. I don’t want to continue to be harmed or for others to be harmed.

The work has to be done by all of us. My call to ACTION is for us to go beyond just being leaders but becoming Cross-Cultural Leaders. This will require work.

Cross-cultural leadership requires leaders, managers, supervisors doing the work so they are able to HEAR, ACT, SUPPORT, EMPOWER, AND STOP PUTTING THE BURDEN ON THE EMPLOYEE. To take this one step further, colleagues we need you do this too.

I am a woman of color, a black woman, and I also have the responsibility to continuously do my work around cross-cultural leadership competencies, which means:

  • Understanding cultural differences.

  • Supporting cultural self – awareness.

  • Encouraging self-awareness around prejudices and assumptions and understanding how consciously and unconsciously stories are assigned to groups.

  • Examining potential paths towards cultural awareness.

  • Improving how we support all cultures in the workplace.

In the coming year, I invite leaders to join me in this project; a project of understanding, collaboration, and healing.

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