An open letter: Straight talk and business

One more post about the election—but this time with business front and center. Okay?

Thursday, the day after the election results came in, I woke up feeling I had to write something. I wanted to suggest how business leaders could speak honestly with their people about the values of diversity and inclusion.

I published it as an open letter on LinkedIn and I’ll post it here in its entirety, in case you’re not a LinkedIn member. (Wait? You’re not a LinkedIn member? What?)

an open letter to straight white male Christian CEOs

An Open Letter to Straight White Christian Male CEOs

If the title of this post shocks you, I intended it to.

The organizations I work with and the executives I write for would never think of the world in such a narrow way. I’ve been in and around Corporate America for more than 25 years, and I’ve seen a real evolution. I truly believe that most businesses today value inclusivity. So I welcome everyone to read and act on this.

But let’s be real: Some people have a bigger megaphone, just by virtue of who they are. You straight white Christian male CEOs may not have asked for this privilege—in fact, let’s assume you don’t even want it. But since you have it, put it to good use.

In the wake of Tuesday’s election, many people who aren’t straight white Christian men—including many of your colleagues and probably your clients too—feel unsettled and unsafe. Indeed, reports of violence and harassment of those perceived as “other” have already risen precipitously.

Use the privilege you didn’t ask for or seek to let the world know that decent people still respect each other.

As a business leader you have a very important superpower: the power of the bottom line. You can refuse to discriminate in hiring and staffing, even if your client requests it. You can refuse to do business with those who support discrimination. You can move conventions or facilities out of areas that enact discrimination by law or mandate.

If you have fostered an inclusive culture within your organization, thank you. Now you need to carry that culture outside your office walls. In your work with clients. In the ways you and your organization support our communities. As you live your daily life.

If you see behavior that’s incompatible with your values, speak up. Empower your people to report any disrespectful or discriminatory behavior they encounter in the course of their work. Take appropriate action to address it—and talk publicly about what you’ve done.

Lead by word and by action. Speak out wherever and whenever you can. Use the privilege you didn’t ask for or seek to let the world know that decent people still respect each other—no matter what religion, national origin, or skin color the “other” has. Or their gender. Or who they love.

Hatred used to thrive in the shadows; it’s now emerging openly, even proudly. We cannot let it become normalized. And you, the straight white Christian men society has anointed as privileged, must take the lead.


Learn to tell your story powerfully. Join me for my free webinar “The Courage to Communicate: Write Right to Lead”—Wednesday November 30th at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific.

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