A good leader is one who inspires. One with a clear, encouraging vision that focuses on progression and innovation. A good leader is disruptive.
A disruptive leader is one that is always seeking better solutions and ways to establish new processes to make an impact as a whole, without worrying about shaking things up or altering the paths to obtain the necessary results.
This is why Michael Omari aka Stormzy is an unsung hero of Britain. A leader that we can all take something from.
He has been hailed “the people’s champ” and ‘a next-generation leader’ by Time magazine, and “this country’s biggest asset, musically and politically”.
If leaders are going to create truly inclusive cultures that represent the demographic that they serve, they need to change the way things are done.
Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in a world where we are all digitally connected, where corporate social responsibility is not a buzz phrase. This attitude adaptation means that leaders need a new point of reference, someone like Stormzy.
So, what inspirational traits does he personify?
HE LEADS BY EXAMPLE
When you lead by example, you create a picture of what is possible. You open the door for others to follow you. When it comes to social issues, this leader has not taken a backseat.
Stormzy joined a Black Lives Matter protest in London, proving that he isn’t just talking the talk, he is walking the walk (literally).
Furthermore, he has committed to donating £1 million annually for 10 years to charities, organisations and movements that are committed to fighting racial inequality, encouraging justice reform and black empowerment in the UK.
He stated that ‘equality is a myth at the moment’ but he recognised his position of power and the impact he could make. His actions inspired BBC Children in Need to do this …
BBC Children in Need has today announced that the charity will match the £10m funding pledge recently made by Stormzy to tackle racial inequality in the UK. Inspired by Stormzy’s commitment, BBC Children in Need will be matching his pledge of £10m over 10 years, and developing a dedicated new funding programme to support young Black talent to achieve their full potential, working in partnership with BBC Radio 1Xtra.
Key takeaway? A progressive leader sets the tone, and if systematic racism is to be eradicated, leaders should recognise the issue and utilise their positions of privilege. This means sending clear messages across the board and exemplifying the message through their own actions.
HE TELLS THE TRUTH
See Stormzy’s statement regarding UK racism below. If that’s not true recognition and honesty…
“The uncomfortable truth that our country continuously fails to recognise and admit that black people in the UK have been at a constant disadvantage in every aspect of life — simply due to the colour of our skin.
I’m lucky enough to be in the position I’m in and I’ve heard people often dismiss the idea of racism existing in Britain by saying, ‘If the country’s so racist how have you become a success?!’ And I reject that with this: I am not the UK’s shining example of what supposedly happens when a black person works hard. There are millions of us.
We are not far and few. We have to fight against the odds of a racist system stacked against us and designed for us to fail from before we are even born. Black people have been playing on an uneven field for far too long and this pledge is a continuation in the fight to finally try and even it.”
Key takeaway? Honesty acts as the gateway for inspiration and trust. Recognising an issue and making a promise to speak about it and follow your commitments through will inspire those around you.
HE OWNS HIS MISTAKES
Because we all make them. Stormzy is not perfect, he is human, and he chooses to handle his mistakes as a lesson.
When homophobic tweets from his past resurfaced in the public domain, he did not give a political answer, he did not hide, he owned up to his error and did not make excuses.
Leaders are not trustworthy, a Harvard Business Review survey found that while 58% of people trust strangers, only 42% trust their own boss. Another study of 7,209 executives, managers, and employees by Leadership IQ found that only 20% of people strongly trust their top management. 36% moderately trust their executives, while the remaining 44% range from not trusting to strongly distrusting.
One of the key drives to build trust is, to be honest, and truthful. That means even when you make a mistake own it. This makes you more accessible as it shows you are human and you mess up. No one wants a politician answer just straight up honest truth.
See Stormzy’s statement below. Again, holding accountability and commitment to change.
“I said some foul and offensive things whilst tweeting years ago at a time when I was young and proudly ignorant. Very hurtful and discriminative views that I’ve unlearned as I’ve grown up and become a man … The comments I made were unacceptable and disgusting, full stop. Comments that I regret and to everyone I’ve offended, I am sorry, these are attitudes I’ve left in the past … I take responsibility for my mistakes and hope you can understand that my younger self doesn’t reflect who I am today.”
Key takeaway? One of the key drivers to building trust is honesty. That means when you make a mistake, own it. Learn from it. This makes you more accessible and relatable because it shows your humanity. No one wants a political answer, just straight up, honest truth.
HE SPEAKS UP FOR INJUSTICE
Stormzy uses his position and platform to speak out. He has loudly supported Jeremy Corbyn, stating that “he is the first man in a position of power who is committed to giving power back to the people and helping those who need it the most.”
He called out PM Boris Johnson on his racist statements towards black people. On the biggest night of his career, he made history as the first Black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury, and lead the crowd as they sang “Vossi Bop”, his No 1 single which features the lyric “F*** the government and f*** Boris”.
After winning British Male Solo Artist and Best British Album at the BRIT Awards, he called out Theresa May in regards to the Grenfell tragedy, where 72 people were killed when a block of flats in London caught fire. He called her out for the fact that relatives are still awaiting compensation.
“Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell? … [you] just forgot about Grenfell, you criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages.”
There has been an abundance of press releases, statements and donations by companies in off the back of the murder of George Floyd, but when it comes to speaking up about injustice, leaders with platforms — the ones who have the power to influence most, have remained silent.
Before George Floyd’s death, there were multiple cases of police brutality in the UK and US, yet silence. There have been complaints of racism, yet with NDA’S and settlements, silence remains. Data on how much companies have spent settling racial discrimination cases over the last 2 decades was not widely available, but to put this into context, Merrill Lynch spent half a billion dollars over a 15 year period.
Key takeaway? This is not a time to prioritise your comfort, this is not a time to be cautious over saying the wrong thing or how white counterparts may perceive you. This is a time to use your voice, stand up and be counted.
People do not care how much you know until you show how much you care which is why Stormzy is so greatly admired, leaders need to emulate him and be vocal.
“As a young black man coming from the community that I come from, I recognise that I have responsibilities. If I’m going to be on stage for five minutes at the Brit Awards, I have a responsibility. Bearing in mind that not one of us has been on that stage for a very long time, if it’s ever happened. If I have five minutes, I’ve got to use that time wisely.”
HE THINKS OUTSIDE THE BOX & EMBRACES TALENT
When you think of Stormzy, you might not put him in the publishing box, yet he curated #Merky Books in partnership with Penguin Random House.
Why? To give a home to a new generation of readers and writers. The aim is to provide a platform for the best new voices of today, and to seek out talented young writers from all backgrounds. True inclusive disruption.
Publishing is an area where people from underprivileged backgrounds are not widely represented. Not because there is a lack of talent, but because the gate keeps closing the doors. With the launch of #Merky Books, Stormzy opened those gates.
“We will be using this as a platform for young writers to become published authors, I know too many talented writers that don’t always have an outlet or a means to get their work seen and hopefully #Merky Books can now be a reference point for them to say ‘I can be an author’ and for that to be a realistic and achievable goal.”
In addition, he funded the ‘Stormzy Scholarship for Black UK Students’ at the University of Cambridge which covers tuition costs for two students and maintenance grants for up to four years.
‘There are so many young black kids all over the country who have the level of academic excellence to study at a university such as Cambridge — however we are still under-represented at leading universities. We, as a minority, have so many examples of black students who have excelled at every level of education throughout the years. I hope this scholarship serves as a small reminder that if young black students wish to study at one of the best universities in the world, then the opportunity is yours for the taking — and if funding is one of the barriers, then we can work towards breaking that barrier down.’
Stormzy, who is an ambassador at the incredible Carney’s Community which gets disadvantaged and excluded young people off the street and away from a life of crime and despair by giving them skills, discipline and self-respect.
Key takeaway? Make a commitment to being truly inclusive. Inclusive leaders tap into the talents and motivations of their teams. They are understanding and genuinely interested in others regardless of background or race. A preference for the familiar way of doing things only keeps from initiating or embracing change.
WHY IT MATTERS
By 2025, roughly 65% of the global labour force will be made up of Millennials and Generation Z.
In the workplace, these people want to hear more voices and ideas, and they want to facilitate more open conversations by creating an inclusive environment.
Employees do not stay silent anymore when things go wrong, they speak up in anonymous medium articles, tweets, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook posts for the whole world to see. They take pride in the way that they care for change and they are transparent about it.
Recent protest across the world highlighting the systematic racism black people face have been filled with 18 to 29-year-old adults who account for 52 per cent of all adults who have protested according to a poll released by Kaiser Family Foundation.
The #MeToo movement is a prime example which was birthed from exposés on sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in Hollywood.
Key takeaway? Leaders need to think outside of the box when it comes to hiring talent and building teams. They need to be transparent.
The reason there is only one Black CEO on the FTSE 100 and five black CEOs running a Fortune 500 company is not reflective of talent but “groupthink” and “cultural fit” (you can read my Cultural Add Not C̶u̶l̶t̶u̶r̶a̶l̶ ̶F̶i̶t̶ article for further clarification)