“I’ll invest my money in people,” our founder Will Keith Kellogg said, not long after establishing the foundation in 1930. He understood that people have the inherent capacity to solve their own problems.

The W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has a long history of leadership development. Today, the WKKF Community Leadership Network is our signature program for supporting local leaders. What’s unique about the program is how it integrates the foundation’s DNA – racial equity and racial healing, community engagement and leadership development. We see these as essential to creating the conditions that propel children and families to achieve success.

During the 18-month WKKF Community Leadership Network fellowship, 80 leaders are coming together to learn about these DNA commitments and how to apply them in their leadership in communities.

A key principle: meaningful and enduring change must be driven by communities through leadership of those directly impacted by systemic racism and oppression. When introducing this idea at the first gathering of the WKKF Community Leadership Network, one fellow asked, “I’m curious where white people fall in this definition? Or, is this an invitation to change the narrative and encourage white people to think about how they, too, are impacted by systemic racism?”

The answer: “Absolutely!” We all benefit when every person – no matter who they are or where they live – has the opportunity to participate in society and prosper. And, we all have a role to play in promoting racial equity in our communities.

In today’s world, leadership is a behavior, not a position. It requires us to step in, when we want to step out. It’s being open and humble, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Leadership is also about bringing people together. It’s listening attentively, treating others respectfully and speaking honestly. Leadership is transformational when we acknowledge racial and social inequities and take steps to address them. It’s asking the tough questions and having the courage to lead change.

We have a theory for this change that is grounded in the foundation’s DNA of racial equity and racial healing, community engagement, and leadership development. Each approach is interrelated and complementary to achieving equitable communities in which all children can thrive.

Where racial equity and community engagement intersect, we can develop a shared vision. Critical to this vision is seeking out underrepresented voices, and not only inviting them to the table, but enabling their participation and input to reshape, expand and transform the table.

Where community engagement and leadership intersect, we can nurture a culture where collective leadership is the norm. To rebalance power, we must involve communities who historically haven’t been included or represented, and be guided by their definition of success. We also need to consider how decisions are made and communicated more equitably.

Where leadership and racial equity intersect, we can establish an authorizing environment that is inclusive and democratic. Traditional models of leadership tend to isolate decision-making with those at the top of a bureaucracy. Our understanding of leadership for equity is that decision-making is shared.

As a result of putting this theory of change into action, we can facilitate racial healing and create new policies and structures that reinforce equitable outcomes for children, families and communities. Leadership is not only a behavior, it’s a process and a practice. All of us can be leaders and take steps toward a more equitable future.

Reggie LaGrand is a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. He oversees the WKKF Community Leadership Network with the Center for Creative Leadership.

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WKKF Community Leadership Network