Leadership Discussion Series
Dr. Kevin Swann, Pastor, Ivy Baptist Church & CIVIC Board Member

On May 25, 2020 our nation witnessed a most heinous crime. A Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. His life was taken from him even after he stated at least 20 times he couldn’t breathe. Even after those who witnessed the event, implored the officer to stop. Even after the three other police officers stood by and watched. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing our nation to “slow down,” this incident quickly became a national story and subsequently the issues of race, racism, white supremacy, police brutality, Black Lives Matter and more came back to the forefront. But there was no escaping it this time; America had to address these issues whether it really wanted to or not.

Whenever there is a crisis of any kind, leadership becomes essential. Leaders are called to be the voice of reason and give direction during turbulent times. Leaders should show empathy to the concerns and give others an opportunity to share their views, even if there are varying opinions. Sadly, the issues of our day are not new. Some of them were established in the founding of our nation. What can and should be different today is how leaders choose to address the challenges we face. If ever there was a time we needed bold, courageous leadership, it is now. We need leadership that is willing to seek to understand the issues, conclude what is truth and stand upon it, no matter how costly it may be. This type of leadership will be the difference between maintaining the status quo vs creating a different path, one that is more inclusive and tolerant of various viewpoints. This type of shift is not easy, but neither is great leadership. Just because someone is in a high-ranking position does not make them a great leader. Great leaders aren’t focused on titles and status but instead are motivated by strong personal convictions, which include integrity, compassion and doing things the right way.

This is what I believe the CIVIC Leadership Institute is all about and why I believe its work is so important. Because developing great leaders in every sector in Hampton Roads is important. The title of my article is “Where do we go from Here?” The answer to that question is as far as leadership is willing to go. So, I ask you, how far are you willing to go for social justice? How far are you willing to go to promote diversity and equity? How far are you willing to go to change the culture of your organization? How far are you willing to go to look deeply within yourself to see where your personal biases and blind spots may be? How far are you willing to go to stand for something that you truly believe in, even if it is unpopular?

CIVIC, the people in the organizations we lead are watching us. They are concerned, worried and fearful. We have a great opportunity to pause, reflect, listen and most of all take action in making our organizations the best versions of themselves.

That’s what great leaders do….