Leading the Way: The Importance of Leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work

Mary Emery, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Marcia Ostrom, Washington State University
Mike Stout, Oklahoma State University
Raquel Taylor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Eric Walcott, Michigan State University
Rachel Welborn, Southern Rural Development Center


This issue brief addresses the role leaders play in supporting efforts to increase dialogues around racial understanding. Based on a survey of State Training Teams who participated in the inaugural Coming Together for Racial Understanding train-the-trainer event (2018), six variables related to leadership support were identified that team members felt were critical to success including actively communicating support, verbally encouraging me in the work, actively participating in dialog, demonstrating support in the face of dissension and risk, and trusting the team to lead the initiative. For this work to truly make a difference, this brief points to the importance of matching administrative leadership efforts with expectations for support, particularly regarding aligning resources and time-on-task to the vision for change.