"Bridging the Gap: Ethical Leadership and the Power of HBCUs in Shaping Tomorrow's Leaders"

Sep 13, 2023

The data told the story. Despite the best efforts of my company, people of color were not adequately represented across the organization, from the entry-level to senior levels. The future did not appear to portend well because the talent pipeline told a similar story. The long-term people strategy called for recruiting and retaining top talent; but, the “usual” sources were lacking in POC (people of color) representation. This was as true for experienced professionals as it was for recent college graduates. So, to address new entrants to the workforce, and new college graduates, we chose four HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) to target. I was fortunate to have been chosen to focus on Morehouse College. We were looking for a strong business foundation, academic excellence, and leadership potential. I established relationships with the Office of Recruiting, student organizations, the Dean of the Business School, the Provost, and, eventually, the President. It was the provost who directed me to Morehouse College’s Leadership Center (renamed The Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership) led by Dr. Walter Fluker. I became an active participant in The Leadership Center meetings with students, becoming a member of The Leadership Center Board, and, eventually, Board Chair. The Center was more than just a place for students to meet. The Center had a focus on Ethical Leadership, a curriculum based on Character, Civility, and Community, and it attracted some of Morehouse’s best and brightest. It was here where I saw The Leadership Center taking the lead in preparing bright young men to be aware of the environmental realities and challenging issues they were sure to experience in their professional and personal lives, and a framework to use to have a positive impact.

Theory and Practice

In my youth, my parents had worked hard to instill in me and my siblings the criticality of character and integrity. They would tell us that when you strip away all the trappings of wealth and position, all you really have is your character and integrity; and, if you compromise that, there’s not much left. I witnessed The Leadership Center and its Ethical Leadership model imbuing in these young men some of the lessons that my parents tried to instill in me. I can truly say that every visit with The Leadership Center students left me uplifted by the experience. Their focus on the Beloved Community and the leadership principles of Character, Civility, and Community resonated with me. It was about who they are, who they can be, and how they can make a difference in the world, regardless of their profession. Ethical Leadership was about the intersection of ethics, principles, and practice.
I had seen other organizations do a terrific job in bringing in distinguished speakers to expose students to models of success. The Leadership Center did this too but went even further. The Center actually had a practicum for developing leadership based upon an ethical leadership framework that had been developed by Dr. Fluker.

The Results

Over the course of several years, through my organization’s efforts with Morehouse College and The Leadership Center, we were successful in recruiting many high-quality, high-potential candidates to the bank’s commercial and consumer businesses. Evidence suggests that they brought more than just their academic skills to the table. Their leadership and resilience, skills they had developed using The Leadership Center’s curriculum, were evident and allowed them to distinguish themselves among their peers.

The future

Dr. Fluker, in establishing WEFA, has taken this model to the next level. He has expanded the mission beyond just one college campus. He is bringing his methodology to identify, recruit, and train a new generation of ethical leaders.