Conversations of Hope, Heart, and the Human Spirit
with Jeffery Smith
Hummingbird Humanity videos now with captioning.
In this episode, Brian and Jeffery cover. . .
- How history repeats itself in organizational leadership
- Positional Power vs Social Power
- The mentorship & opportunity gap
Leaning Into Humanity
A large reason for the barriers to high positional power is the social power one is given by society. Social power differs from positional power because positional power is the authority granted by a title or a position in an organization or a hierarchical system. Social power consists of the privileges and oppressions one is faced with due to their social identity in society. As a Black man, Jeffery references sharing an experience with the protagonist of a Proctor & Gamble anti-bias video called The Look.
Jeffery can be a high-powered and well-respected executive at work but the moment he leaves work, he can be deemed criminal and unsuccessful because of the color of his skin. He is not given a fair chance through no fault of his own. Social power leads to assumptions and narratives that cause closed doors, slander, and in some cases violence to people who hold little privilege in society.
Brian and Jeffery believe a way to combat the ills of social power and allow the holders of positional power to be more diverse is to start with the mentorship process. When describing the disparity in mentoring and opportunity sharing, Brain stated:
“Particularly straight White cisgender men are given opportunities long before they’re ready for that role, officially qualified or ready. But they are given that opportunity because someone sees potential in them. And in theory, that sounds cool, right? But what happens to diverse and marginalized and stigmatized communities is they don’t get that chance. They are expected to demonstrate that they can do the job successfully, and meet every criteria and qualification before they can move into that job. And that keeps people back and holds people back. That oppresses an entire community.”
Business leaders must move away from asking marginalized talent to prove themselves and instead see potential in these humans.
Jeffery Smith is living his ancestors’ wildest dreams. Through the work of diversity and inclusion, Jeffery dares to disrupt the very same systemic oppression of Corporate America that created inequity for his slave and sharecropper ancestors. Jeffery’s journey in change work stems from his time as a Business Development professional engaged in Proctor & Gamble’s diversity and inclusion program. His engagement led him to become a leader in human resources and diversity and inclusion within the company. Jeffery Smith brings his 30-year success in system improvement to Diversity Best Practices, a division of Working Mother Media that advises mid to large-sized organizations about producing effective diversity strategies. He urges his C-suite clients to be genuine and vulnerable when coaching them to examine and address societal ills that replicate within their work.
The workforce has come a long way in diverse representation. However, Jeffery challenges us to see how history repeats itself as it pertains to power dynamics. Business leaders in the C-suite have maintained a White, cisgender, heterosexual male majority. This positional power and financial access to the C-suite can change a person’s entire trajectory. This leaves women, Black people, Indigenous communities, people of color, queer folks, those living with disabilities, and first-generation individuals excluded from these benefits. To believe that this system is a full meritocracy is to believe that, by pure chance, there is a certain group of people who are inherently successful, and that others are not worthy or deserving of success. There is a system at play that must be changed.