Leadership Moments: Are You Ready to Embrace Diversity at Your Nonprofit?

J.W. Wiley

As part of our rollout of Neon One, we will be hearing from industry celebrated experts in a wide variety of fields and expertise. Today’s educational spotlight comes from J.W. Wiley from Xamining Diversity, whose expertise is Inclusive Leadership.

Recently, as SUNY Plattsburgh’s chief diversity officer, I met and conversed with staff/faculty.

While I often challenge students about engaging their leadership moments, I have also provoked faculty/staff on various college campuses to not be hypocrites by ensuring they are educated enough to affirm their claims that they are truly student-centered.

At SUNY Plattsburgh, until recently, I was remiss in diligently extending this challenge. My leadership moment is now.

Though the concept of the universe embedded within any university premise is the best opportunity students may ever have to explore it so inexpensively, most still don’t do it.

At the Center for Diversity, we challenge students to leave their comfort zones and experience new friendships, classes, and ideas.

As educators, we are tasked with the responsibility of educating students very different from the type of students we once were. We must be certain that while we are teaching to the best of our abilities our students are actually learning.

We should also be capable of seeing the irony in our challenging students who are paranoid about learning something new/different while fear prevents us from attempting the same.
We must also be receptive to lessons that we could learn only from our students.

We acquire higher ed degrees and salaried jobs and begin to believe we know enough to not have to put in the work to continue to learn.

We easily miss how some students’ educational endeavors are undercut by identity politics, sometimes inadvertently, but nonetheless painfully.

We miss how widely our students’ community experiences vary due to the diversity of their identities.

The current socio-political unrest at colleges throughout the country reveals how disconnected we can be without realizing it. Campuses/communities that don’t discern the struggles of their underrepresented constituents are in trouble.

For nonprofits, being disconnected — from those we serve, from our supporters, etc. — can mean that our mission and operations can become ineffective. To truly succeed, nonprofits need to fully embrace diversity and inclusive leadership. A leadership moment can help you get there.

A leadership moment is assisting or defending someone to ensure a socially just result, essentially philosophically asking someone to clarify or cease their dysfunctional actions/language choices and pre-judgments (prejudice), knowing in doing so they acquire another perspective and maybe see their own hypocrisy.

A classic leadership moment occurred when Republican presidential candidate John McCain corrected a supporter chiding then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama about being Muslim.

Leadership moments that curtail the demonization of others — moments that challenge us to consider another viewpoint beyond the perspectives we were spoon fed and digested without a discerning thought — are invaluable.

In a country that can’t escape its sexist, ableist, heterosexist, classist, jingoist, privileged and, yes, racist past, who — reared in our so-called United States — doesn’t hold a dysfunctional perspective of someone’s identity?

I am a recovering inadvertent intolerant working tirelessly to not be. What about you?
Yes, this is a clarion call for so-called leaders. It’s time to answer questions previously unanswered.

Is your hesitance to embrace diversity due to anxiety about change?

Is your perspective of those you know nothing about logical?

Are you ready to step into your leadership moment and welcome the inevitable change on its way or create the change yourself?

Today is a new day, a time for new leadership. Whatever occurred last year or yesterday is old news. What is important now is an understanding of the significance of diversity within any community, even those communities hesitant to embrace it.

Armed with that knowledge, leaders should be leading, assisting our communities in achieving their unlimited potential.

You ready? If so, then please expect our call. We will let it ring until you answer.

Learn more about J.W. Wiley and his work at Xamining Diversity

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