Leadership Voice

Leadership Voice … in support of racial equity

 “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

This quote likely comes from John Stuart Mill’s inaugural address in 1867.

“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part … Bad men need nothing more … than that good men should look on and do nothing.
He is not a good man who …allows wrong to be committed in his name …” 

Voice is influence

Are you using your voice to inspire and appeal … or appease? Superintendents, organizational leaders and principals have multiple ways to share what is important.  

Yes, racial equity has become politicized. Yes, more than half of our students today are of color.  Yes, our future as a nation depends on how well we serve each and every student.  

Here are 13 ways – a baker’s dozen – to use your voice to help shape the future … for racial equity … and excellence in learning.


Pick a quote or one of the district’s tag lines.  Add it to your signature line.  It will communicate what you stand for with each outgoing email.  


Put that quote or tag line at the top of every agenda.  Better, make the first item on every agenda about equity.  


Tell your story.  What is your racial journey? Share where you are and where you are headed … with humility.  The Self, Us, and Now template shows how to connect your story to the bigger story and action.  


At the start of every meeting, PD, board meeting, use that time to introduce one step forward.  I opened every principal PD with a book, quote, or kudo related to equity.  One district has a student read the board mission at the start of every board meeting.

Words matter

Choose words carefully to avoid blaming the victim, negative stereotypes, or assuming students need to fixed.  Check out websites to find language that resonates.  Federal Way refers to every student as “scholar.” Edmonds says the know every student by name, strength and dream.  


Talk to students and parents of color.  Hear their journey and what they need.  Share those stories. Amplify diverse voices.  


Showcase the data. Be forthright about the need.  Creative tension – the gap between where we are and where we want to be – compels us to find better ways forward.  Show progress and the need for more work.  Leading indicators are 3rd grade reading, 8th grade math, 9th grade on track, and on-time graduation.


Allocate resources where they will make the most impact.  Equity means we put more money where the need is greater.  What percentage of PD dollars or PLC time or strategic goals will be focused on racial equity?


How clear have you been about what you hire for?  What barriers have you removed for candidates of color?  What are your outcomes? Most students of color encounter only one or two teachers of color over their entire time in K-12.


Word pictures are great bridges for understanding.  Kids of color are “canaries in the coal mine.”  If they are not surviving and thriving … the health and well-being of all students is compromised.


Continue to grow racial literacy through inspirational speakers … as well as books and articles. AND use your voice to amplify those messages.  Share the highlights and what resonated for you in newsletters and blogs. Showcase positive outliers in PD and at board meetings. 

Social Media

Do one of the above each week … and highlight it on social media.  We have to hear messages four times before they start to take root. 

Stretch Goals

What is one area where you are stretching to learn and grow.  Be transparent.  Be vulnerable.  Ask senior leaders to do the same. Set a stretch goal, an inquiry goal, to move racial equity forward.   

Start Now

By all means, work on policy development, strategic plans and guest speakers.  AND use your voice to amplify the good work under way.  If you haven’t started yet, start now.  There will always be a reason to delay.  We learn by doing. Get started.  Our kids can’t wait.  


The hysteria over CRT is simply the latest attempt – literally a red herring – to divert attention from our greatest need.  The strategy of putting up an alarmist straw man, by claiming racial equity is CRT and Marxist, aims to shut down debate and keep the playing field unequal and unjust.   Be polite and respectful but don’t be distracted.  Stay focused.  Share the data.  Share the stories.  Share the need.   


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Larry Nyland speaking

Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
Contact: Larry@Larrynyland.com | 425-418-4398 | LarryNyland.com