I think we have to look at, forgiveness and reconciliation, and accountability and healing as core leadership components. - Desiree Adaway, Episode 3
Desiree works with conscious and caring leaders to give them the skills to cultivate rich, rewarding and meaningful relationships and conversations across race, class, and gender. So that organizational culture can change. As a consultant. advisor, strategist, and senior trainer, she works with organizations to do two things: use equity and inclusion to their advantage and leverage leadership across levels.
Connect with Desiree
- Feminist Accountability: Disrupting Violence and Transforming Power by Dr. Ann Russo
- Prison Abolition
- Fumbling Towards Repair: A Workbook for Community Accountability Facilitators by Mariame Kaba and Shira Hassan
- Mariame Kaba
Liz Wiltsie: Welcome to What's Leadership? I'm Liz Wiltsie. The more I learn about leadership, the more I'm convinced there's not a one size fits all solution. So I am on my own learning journey and I invite you to join me. EbonyJanice reminds me that being open about my journey is important. Each episode features someone I admire with actionable insight to share. So please join me as I ask what's leadership?
I am thrilled to welcome Desiree Adaway today. I've been a fan of her work for years, and I know the rest of you will be too. Desiree works with conscious and caring leaders to give them the skills to cultivate rich, rewarding and meaningful relationships and conversations across race, class, and gender. So that organizational culture can change. As a consultant. advisor, strategist, and senior trainer, she works with organizations to do two things: use equity and inclusion to their advantage and leverage leadership across levels. Welcome Desiree.
Desiree Adaway: Thanks for having me.
Liz Wiltsie: So let's get to it. What do you think is the number one challenge for leaders?
Desiree Adaway: I think it's accountability. I think leaders want to hold themselves accountable and they can't. And so our it's clients, it's our customers, who gets to hold us accountable. It's our employees. But I think even more so than that, I think leaders have a very skewed understanding of what accountability is.
A lot of folks see accountability as something that's punitive and I see it as, a deep love and kinship, right? So I only hold folks accountable that I care about that I want to be in community with. And so when we're called out for not showing up or following through, when we're called out, because our impact was not what we had hoped it would be. I take that as a sign of folks that really care about me and care about me as a leader and developing my leadership skills. And so I just think leaders need to spend a bit more time focused around accountability. And what does that mean? And how can we think of it as not something that's punitive, but you use that as ways that we can learn and wrestle with really big, important issues publicly and model ways for other people to wrestle with those issues.
Liz Wiltsie: Yeah, indeed. So what is your number one tip for leaders getting in a space that they can do that?
Desiree Adaway: I think there's two things. I think we have to look at, forgiveness and reconciliation, and accountability and healing as core leadership components. So as we think about what leaders are, you know, for some people that's like, you know, being able to speak publicly, that may mean being kind of brave and courageous.
I think it also means that, we understand how do we help in the healing of folks? how do we talk about forgiveness? How do we model forgiveness? How do we model reconciliation? I think if some of those were really integral leadership skills, we wouldn't have as many toxic organizations and institutions like we have.
Liz Wiltsie: Indeed, absolutely. For sure. so what has been a book or talk presentation concept that has really been impactful for you?
Desiree Adaway: There've been a lot I've doing a lot of studying of the prison abolitionists movement actually, which is a great movement around us imagining what does it mean, to not have prisons, which means that how, how, how do we talk about healing and forgiving and what does that look like happening on a community and collective level?
But a book that has been really amazing for me is a book called Feminist Accountability: Disrupting Violence and Transforming Power. It's by Dr. Ann Russo. I think she's a doctor. Ann Russo, she teaches at DePaul university in Chicago, and has lots of great, there's a lot of great work around what does accountability look like?
And I just, that feminist accountability book is it's become my new Bible.
Liz Wiltsie: I have added it to my reading list immediately. When you're talking about prison abolition, do you have a specific, do you have something that you like to point to when you talk about it?
Desiree Adaway: Yeah. I, I follow, some folks on Twitter, which if you just kind of, search on Twitter for it, but there's an activist whose last name is Kaba, Mariame Kaba. I, I do a lot of her readings. She has this great book called Fumbling Towards Repair, which is really around like, how do we, how do we repair relationships when we've hurt and harmed folks?
And what does that look like? And she's been integral in doing a lot on that. A lot of that work.
Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. I do work with a whole bunch of abolitionist things here in Los Angeles. and it's really changed the way I think about both accountability and forgiveness. Like you talk about it. So, I'm really appreciative that you brought that, but you brought that to this conversation
Desiree Adaway: And LA you know what, the largest prison system in the world.
Liz Wiltsie: Yes. Yes.
Desiree Adaway: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah. You know, it's, it's, I think the, when we think about the kind of political vision of, of eliminating imprisonment, for me, what that ultimately has us having to think about is, how do we care for one another? When we've been harmed and how do we recover from that together?
And how do we just not lock people away? Again, there are no easy answers in any of this work, right? Like, so there's no real easy answers around that, around these big questions, but I think that there's some. For me, they're really big. It brings up big themes for me around how do I want to be in community with people?
Build models that represent how we want to live in the future.
Liz Wiltsie: And how we want to be treated as humans in this future.
Desiree Adaway: Sure. So, yeah.
Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. So what should I have asked you that I didn't?
Desiree Adaway: Ask that question to my clients all the time. I, yeah, I don't, I don't think there's anything, honestly. I would just say, to your folks who are listening, you know, leadership is a constant destination. It's a constant journey. We're all, you know, it's not like you arrive and you're a leader. Those skills have to constantly evolve for the context and the times that we live in.
Liz Wiltsie: It's a perfect way to end. Thank you so much for being here.
Desiree Adaway: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
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