Close this search box.
Inclusive Leadership

Institutionally Racist? That Don’t Impress Me Much

Institutionally Racist? That Don’t Impress Me Much

The time has come for exemplary Inclusive leaders to rise. It is a time for meaningful, intentional and sustained action, not empty words.

As we commemorate the third anniversary of George Floyd’s tragic death, a recent development is causing ripples throughout the United Kingdom. In what has been described as a ground breaking statement on 25 May 2023, Sir Ian Livingstone, the outgoing Chief Constable of Police Scotland—the country’s second largest force—declared that the organisation is deeply entrenched in institutional racism, misogyny, sexism, and discrimination.

These powerful words, emanating from a leader who has held the reins since August 2018 (and even served as the Deputy Chief Constable Designate prior to that), have undeniably captured widespread attention, dominating the headlines. However, as I listened to the news coverage, I couldn’t shake a profound sense of unease.

While acknowledging the importance of recognising these issues as a crucial step towards initiating change, I find myself questioning the efficacy of public self/service-flagellation set against the context of a failure to issue any kind of genuine apology for what is fundamentally a failure in good leadership; his leadership. I am puzzled about whether this is a genuine omission or a failure to understand his own accountability for the very issues he raises.

Leadership expert John C. Maxwell once remarked that to comprehend an organisation’s culture, leaders need only gaze into a mirror. And I wholeheartedly agree. When it comes to issues around Inclusion, Culture and Equity, I believe it is incumbent upon boards and senior leaders to stand united, metaphorically, in front of that mirror, engaging in a thorough examination of their own roles, individually and collectively in shaping and perpetuating whatever organisational culture(s) exists—be they positive or negative.

An organisation does not simply become “institutionally racist, sexist, or misogynist” overnight. These cultures, like any other, have been nurtured by the consistent and sustained actions and inactions of its leaders.

An organisation does not simply become “institutionally racist, sexist, or misogynist” overnight. These cultures, like any other, have been nurtured by the consistent and sustained actions and inactions of its leaders. They have been meticulously cultivated through consistent cover-ups,  failures to address the obvious, a lack of responses to the voices that dared to speak up, and a dearth of challenges and actions regarding deeply rooted historical issues. They have been fed by leaders who have ‘walked on by’ behaviours and attitudes that have been merely symptoms of a much deeper malaise.

Leaders who have allowed those cultures to flourish grow and have failed to change or challenge policies, practices and procedures that impacted unfairly on certain individuals even when drawn to their attention. It is a less of an unpredicted mishap and more of sustained wilful inaction.

It does not happen by default, hence Sir Ian declaring this “state of the nation” after nearly seven years at the helm, as he is about to leave appears, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, lacking in integrity. I am tempted to echo the words of Shania Twain “that don’t impress me much” or simply ask “where have you been”?

Renowned HR magazine SHRM emphasises that an organisation’s culture defines the proper way to behave within its walls. Leaders establish these shared beliefs and values, which are then communicated and reinforced through various means, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors, and understanding. As Edgar Schein asserts, the most important task of leaders is to shape and manage culture. Ignorance is no excuse and no one can claim ignorance particularly after the death of George Floyd.

I would have found it far more impressive if Sir Ian had personally apologised today for failing to create a culture of inclusion, equity, fairness, and justice within the organisation he led for the last seven years. This failure has come at a steep cost to members of the community, but it will also take its toll on his own officers and staff.

In our work with leaders across public sector organisations, I am consistently astonished by the gap that seems to exist in organisations between leadership, culture, and inclusion. Good leadership is by default inclusive. Good leadership is about creating, facilitating and leading positive working cultures where all belong and are treated fairly. Good leadership is value driven and the basic human values of kindness, compassion, tolerance, respect and fairness naturally mitigate against the behaviours and attitudes that drive misogyny and discrimination. Bad cultures live when good leadership dies.

Regrettably, this admission—or what in my view should be a confession by Sir Ian—will not, yield positive results. It will further deepen wounds of division within the organisation, leaving a tangled mess of divided loyalties for the leaders he leaves behind to clean up.

The label ‘institutionally racist’ itself has not proven to be a catalyst for change; instead, it too often becomes an excuse for defensiveness and concerted efforts to prevent any corroborating evidence from emerging that will further reinforce this message. Internally, many will dismiss it, while others will rail against it. The organisation will enter a mode of survival and defensiveness, hindering the environment needed for true transformation and sustainable change. Police Scotland need not look far for an example.

I would have found it far more impressive if Sir Ian had personally apologised today for failing to create a culture of inclusion, equity, fairness, and justice within the organisation he led for the last seven years. This failure has come at a steep cost to members of the community, but it will also take its toll on his own officers and staff.

Undoubtedly, there are racist, sexist, and misogynist individuals within Police Scotland, but there are also thousands of dedicated individuals who risk their lives daily to protect their communities. Tomorrow, while Sir Ian and his team engage in more interviews and self-reflection at headquarters, these individuals will face mistrustful and betrayed communities and battle lines will be drawn. History has not shown this to be a helpful approach on either side.

Inclusive leadership demands integrity, honesty, and accountability. A leader cannot distance themselves from the culture(s) of the organisation they have led or continue to lead. The journey towards anti-racism is an arduous one, considering the starting point for many an organisation and there is still a lack of clarity about what the final destination looks like. Organisations reflect the societies they exist in and we have a long way to go before we are anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic or indeed non-discriminatory.

It is crucial that Police Scotland now focuses on fostering and developing culturally intelligent and inclusive leaders who comprehend their foremost role in creating a vision for a different future—one that they lead all their people toward. These leaders need to be change catalysts who understand the science and art of change leadership. They need to be visionaries who have a clear vision of the world they are trying to create and the skills and capabilities to engage and lead their whole workforce on the journey of change. They have to be value driven and understand the importance of Intentional Inclusive leadership. At Above Difference we say, inclusion has to be about everyone or it will be about no one.

As John C. Maxwell eloquently states, “It all rises and falls with leadership.” The time has come for exemplary Inclusive leaders to rise. It is a time for meaningful, intentional and sustained action, not empty words.

#InclusiveLeadership   #OrganisationalCulture   #Accountability   #DrivingChange


Masterclass Page Stripe

How do I book a place?

Booking is flexible and easy.  Either contact us directly or use our new Stripe payment system.

Contact Us Directly

Simply click on the button below, fill in the brief form and we will get in touch with you to discuss how you can secure a place for yourself or colleagues. If you are a public sector employee we are able to issue invoices and your place will be confirmed once we receive a Purchase Order Number

Investment: £1,500 + VAT per participant

Stripe Payment System

In response to clients requesting a quick and easy payment solution for Masterclasses, we have partnered with Stripe. Simply click on the button below and you will be taken to a secure,  stand alone Stripe payment page where you can complete your purchase. There is a Stripe processing and handing fee for this service of £30.

Investment: £1,530 + VAT per participant

Do I get a discount if we book more than one place?

Yes, discounts are available, as are reduced prices for Community or Voluntary organisations. You need to  Contact Us Directly as discounts cannot be negotiated through the Stripe payment system. Place the number of participants you are looking to book and we will contact you directly with our best price.

Programme Details

28 & 29 June 2023

Participants will receive:


Two full day virtual Masterclass facilitation sessions


One Coaching/Debriefing Session with an Above Difference Expert Coach and facilitator

Interactive Leadership Development Hubs

Two Change and Develop Leadership Hubs

Ongoing Phone Support

Expert phone support

Leadership Network

Membership of the Above Difference #toseeandhearyou Leadership Network

£1,500 +VAT per participant

Are you a leader who wants to lead difference differently in your organisation? Do you want to enhance the narrative around the Inclusion agenda and learn a new set of skills, capabilities and approaches that will help you lead and engage your workforce in creating a real sense of belonging and Inclusion in your organisation where everyone feels valued, seen and heard?​

We believe that when leaders lead well, they commit to leading all people well and we also believe everyone deserves to be well led. At Above Difference we are committed to supporting leaders by helping them find the “how” and enabling them to create inclusive spaces where all feel valued and well led.

We have developed a unique and acclaimed model that takes leaders on a journey of growth, development and change, introducing new models, evidence-based approaches that challenge and changing the traditional approaches to addressing the Inclusion agenda. Our aim is to develop leaders who are able to take a fresh and robust leadership approach and deploy their proven leadership and change management skills to deliver real, strategic and sustainable change for their workforce and stakeholders where it counts.

Drawing on proven leadership theories including Maxwell Leadership, John Kotter, Dave Livermore and Schein, this programme challenges leaders to view Inclusion as a leadership challenge echoing Lord Messenger’s recommendations that ‘EDI should become a universal indicator of how the system respects and values its workforce, and the provision of an inclusive and fair culture should become a key metric by which leadership at all levels is judged’.

The Programme – A Journey to Intentionally Inclusive Leadership

Our two-day Masterclass Programme will differ from anything you have attended before around Inclusion. You will be introduced to the Above Difference Model of “Leading Inclusively with Cultural Intelligence” – a unique mix of academic and evidence-based tools and strategies that will transform your ability to lead and facilitate Inclusive and Compassionate workplaces for those you lead and serve. 

Our model draws on the best of Cultural Intelligence, Change Management, Strength Value-Based, and Inclusive Leadership to create a unique programme that will challenge and change how you engage as a leader in the EDI space. It will equip you with new leadership tools while building your resilience and confidence in dealing with the challenges of leading diverse teams and organisations. Participants will:

  • Take a 360° Cultural Intelligence Assessment to help you understand how your cultural values, preferences, and norms shape how you engage with Difference.
  • Learn how to enhance and develop their Cultural Intelligence and work and relate more effectively across diverse teams and contexts.
  • Learn how to develop, enhance and deploy their Inclusive leadership skills and create inclusive cultures in their workplaces and teams.
  • Gain an in-depth understanding of the importance of a clearly defined Change Management approach to delivering sustainable change in the EDI agenda, drawing on Kotter’s change model.
  • Develop their understanding of Value-Based leadership and why understanding the “WHY’ matters to leaders leading Inclusion.

Participants who undertake this programme will walk away with:

  • A two-day virtual Masterclass hosted by Jennifer Izekor (Jennifer has been described by Dave Livermore , Author ofLeading with Cultural Intelligence as probably one of the best Cultural Intelligence facilitators in the World. She is a CQ fellow, A Maxwell Leadership Coach and an Advanced CQ facilitator).
  • A follow up “ Inclusive Leadership Coaching/Mentoring session” to support participants in developing their own Personal Leadership Action Plan.
  • Two follow on virtual half day Design, Innovate and Implement sessions providing an opportunity to apply learning form the Masterclass.
  • Access to the Above Difference Leaders For Inclusion Network.
“Was so impressed by our programme yesterday – a much richer approach to equality and diversity in the workplace than I’d ever seen before. Thank you Above Difference!”
“Highly recommend this programme to trust exec boards – learning about inclusivity together and also how we can create the environment for change through our leadership and the privilege we have in the posts we hold”
C. Alexander, NHS Barts Health Board Member