Editor’s note: This is the first post in an 5-part series on Shared Prosperity: Our Corporate Responsibility in a Time of Consternation.

I recently published a position paper entitled, Shared Prosperity: Our Corporate Responsibility in a Time of Consternation. In it I say that the systems that have led to social unrest and economic inequities have to change. And it bears repeating that those of us who have a sphere of power and influence can play a vital part of the change that needs to happen.

You can start by using your platform to help others. I was recently in provocative conversation with Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square, Inc. and Launchcode. You can view our entire conversation HERE (link).  We are in agreement that business, civic, and even faith-based leaders have the power to be change-makers. The question is: do they themselves have the courage and power to change?  Are they willing to relinquish some of their power to gain more influence and to be a true ally? Are you?

Relinquishing power to increase influence seems like an oxymoron, but it is not. My own story bears that out. Most know that I spent nearly 20 years in the charitable sector, concluding that journey as CEO of United Way in the St. Louis region. What makes that miraculous in my case is that as a young person I lived at two orphanages and utilized the free resources offered by many organizations United Way funded. My rise to the CEO of Midwest BankCentre was and still is improbable, as I came from what many consider the economic gutter. But I had a champion and ally in the former United Way CEO, Gary Dollar, who happens to be white, and who challenged me to be better. He actively advocated for me. He and several racially diverse influential members of the community were my allies and advocates. Our collective responsibility is now to provide sponsorship for others.

As a leader in your organization, you have to help with the “wind in the face” challenge that so many Black and Brown people experience. You have to ask questions and challenge the process to ensure that the implicit bias inherent in virtually all organizations is managed. This is what being a true ally looks like.

To my Black brothers and sisters, I implore you to occupy your space. For a whole host of reasons, oftentimes racial minorities move into certain powerful positions and choose not to use their voice on justice and equity issues because it is “what is expected of us” and it’s not necessarily met with a warm reception. I believe we have to push beyond the pressure we feel not to disturb the status quo, because we have a responsibility to use our platform to help others. Our versatility in speaking to multiple issues, including race and equity, will create tremendous value for the enterprise.  We must occupy our space.

With the full support of what was once white male ownership and leadership, Midwest BankCentre has created a bank well positioned to serve people throughout our region; whether they are low income or wealthy, whether they are Black or Brown or white, whether they are newly settled immigrants or third generation establishment. 

I urge you to add “ally” to your job description. The return on that investment can be huge.

This post is part 1 of 5 in a series on the Shared Prosperity: Our Corporate Responsibility in a Time of ConsternationFollow along the series with the next blog post.

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