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Inclusive Leadership Insights to Build Successful Teams in 2020

Inclusive Leadership Insights to Build Successful Teams in 2020

On Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Flockjay CEO Shaan Hatharamani and Senior Sales Trainer Teila Evans sat down for a riveting fireside chat with two powerhouses who shared crucial insights on the power of inclusive leadership and teaming up if you want to be successful.Our speakers Bonita Stewart, VP of Partnerships at Google, and Jacqueline Adams, who launched a second career as a communications strategist after more than two decades as an Emmy Award-winning CBS News correspondent, joined forces to co-author the upcoming book, 'A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming up to Lead, Empower, and Thrive. 'As part of this, they surveyed 4,005 American women, so-called ‘desk workers’, across four races (Black, LatinX, Asian, white) and four generations (GenZ, Millennials, GenX, Boomers).In this post we’ll recap some of our top takeaways, but be sure to watch the full recording on-demand to reap maximum benefits from this energetic and inspiring conversation. Thank you to our panel for sharing their wisdom and to our attendees for their participation and feedback.

“This is one of the most honest curated conversations about being BIPOC in the workplace that I’ve seen.
” -Ashley Taylor “This panel was extremely empowering, inspiring and engaging. Overall it reinforced the power of exceptional leadership.” -Karen Chong

About “A Blessing: Teaming Up to Lead, Empower and Thrive”

Fun fact: A group of unicorns is called “a blessing.” At the start of the chat, Jackie shared an explanation for how the authors came to this title and what this project means to them.

“In our careers, Bonita and I have often been the only person - the only woman - of color in a room. We have been firsts. Bonita was the first African American female vice president at Google. I was the first African American female correspondent whom CBS News assigned full time to the White House,” Jackie said. “Given that we were firsts, we have often been considered ‘Unicorns’ -- rare and valuable beings.”

Bonita said their book is for everyone, but “particularly leaders who are interested in activating the competitive advantage that will come from winning the race for talent” in addition to, “the leaders of the future, younger people, who want to be prepared to meet the opportunities that are here today and in the future.”Hearing our speakers share personal stories about their experiences as women of color in the workplace was incredibly powerful for both leaders who are hiring their first (hopefully not only) BIPOC employees and diverse job seekers who may find themselves in a similar “only” situation.

Understanding Generational Diversity, Inclusive Leadership, and Winning

During the conversation, Bonita and Jackie, fellow Harvard Business School alumni, shared three central themes discussed in their book: Generational Diversity, Inclusive Leadership, and Winning.

Generational Diversity

What is important for business leaders to understand about Generational Diversity is that the demographics in America are changing. Some noteworthy data Bonita mentioned:

  • “By 2027, people of color ages 18-29 (GenZ and Millennials), will be in the majority according to the Census. This will be a critical tipping point and begins to shape the future of the US and global economies.”
  • “From our research, we found these GenZ and Millennial workers are mission-driven, innovative, confident, and demanding workplaces that provide the support they need to thrive. Yet in many cases, they are the ‘only.’”
  • “47% of Black women told us that they are frequently or always the only person of their race in professional situations. 73% of white women, by contrast, are RARELY the only person of their race in such a setting.”
Leadership Takeaway | It’s important to be aware of and avoid tokenism, especially as growing companies ramp up diversity hiring initiatives. Bonita said, “To attract, and more importantly to retain workers of color, business leaders need to approach talent with a desire to hire in multiples vs hiring for ‘tokenism’ or the classic - I’m one and done.”

Check out this article to learn more about how “Tokenism can hurt individual performance and the business overall according to an analysis of 80 studies over the past 25 years.”

Inclusive Leadership

Tokenism occurs when you implement diversity without inclusion, so what’s important for business leaders to understand about Inclusive Leadership is that you must actively create an environment of belonging, hire inclusive leaders, and continuously foster allyship. Jackie said:

  • “While we surveyed all generations, it was eye-opening to see that across the board within GenZ - 92% of Black women, 93% LatinX, 96% Asian, 95% white - said that they feel that guidance from managers and supervisors will be helpful to their making progress at work.”
Leadership Takeaway | Managers reading this - embrace these folks with guidance, support, and provide opportunities that will help them foster community and succeed. Bonita shared a quote from Nelson Mandela, an inclusive leader she admires: “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the frontline when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”


Here’s a win: Did you know that more Black women are earning college degrees than any other slice of the US population? How about the fact that women of color control more than $1 Trillion in consumer purchasing power? The buying power of Latinx and Asian Americans is also on the rise. Women and BIPOC are winning across a wide spectrum of fields, but we are a long way from closing systemic gaps. Jackie said, “We have a hunger for entrepreneurship,” citing that:

  • Women-owned businesses grew by 58% from 2007 to 2018, while firms owned by Black women grew by 164%

Not only that, Jackie said, “Black women had this explosive growth in entrepreneurship despite receiving zero dollars in venture capital, on average, according to McKinsey research. Historically, in the Black community, we are used  to ‘making a way out of no way.’”

Leadership Takeaway | Invest, hire, nurture, and welcome women of color into your workplace, or you’re missing out on serious talent and opportunities to strengthen your business. Jackie lives by the following words from Toni Morrison, and Flockjay agrees. “When you get those jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember your real job is to free somebody else, as you have become free. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab bag candy game.’”

Look for Inclusive Leadership Traits, Character Traits, and Superpowers

Bonita and Jackie read through piles of significant research in preparation for writing their book and found six signature traits (as researched by Deloitte) that best encapsulate an actionable way forward for leaders. According to Bonita, “We are all at different levels of our leadership journey, however, this next phase of leadership will be a talent differentiator for every brand, every company, and every board. The complexity of leadership will move to understanding IQ + EQ (emotional intelligence) + CQ (cultural intelligence).”

Are You An Inclusive Leader with These Character Traits?

Make yourself an inclusive leadership traits checklist and evaluate yourself or the person you’re considering hiring for the following traits: Commitment, Courage, Cognizance of Bias, Curiosity, Cultural Intelligence, and Collaborative.You should also consider character education traits when assessing talent pools rather than being hyper-focused on skill sets, as you could be excluding a large number of candidates who have the traits to excel and can be taught the skills.Jackie said, “We address this subject in our first chapter, which we call ‘Our Natural Grit.' We cite non-cognitive skills and character education, the work of U. Penn Professor Angela Duckworth, author of the book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” Hear from Angela on TED Talks Education.There are 23 major characteristics, but the top are: Zest, Grit, Perseverance, Curiosity, Optimism, Gratitude, Social Intelligence, and Self-control. There are countless ways that people come to harness these traits, and it can be challenging. Watch the full recording for deeper insights on the meaning behind each of these traits.

What Are Your Superpowers?

A special moment was when Jackie shared that, “My first memory is of my father saying: ‘When you’re Black in America, you have to be superior just to be equal.’ That recognition fueled my quest for excellence, in education and in every sphere I entered. I considered this feeling of superiority - even if I’m the only person who sees it - as a Superpower!”Jackie said the truth is that we ALL have Superpowers, so she encourages you to ask yourself what yours are and own them, “Be proud of those Superpowers! They are very, very real.”

Parting Advice for Hiring Managers Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion

When Shaan asked Bonita what other traits or insights hiring managers should take away from this, she said:

“We just need hiring managers to take off their blinders, to look beyond the Ivy League and traditional sources of talent, to be humble and courageous and stop looking for people just like themselves to find these superheroes!”

She added that hiring managers should know that talent is the new frontier. Those who look widely for people, like those who hire diverse Flockjay graduates, are going to be the winners! We’ll close with a personal story Bonita shared that really stuck with us. She said:

“My paternal grandfather was a very wise man...and almost 100 years ago, he wrote that ‘the future progress of the race depends on education and unity.’ We are, indeed, making tremendous strides in education. Next up--Unity. For me, for us, that means Teaming Up. No one should go on this journey alone. There is an African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ Let’s go together and Team Up!”

You can visit to learn more about their book and pre-order your copy that is set to be released on October 15, 2020, and listen to the full fireside chat here.

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