Jim Fielding All Pride of No Ego On 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society
Know and Embrace your Authentic Self. Do the work to understand your strengths, developmental opportunities, and inherent biases. Be vulnerable, sincere, and transparent with your teams and actively listen and learn.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Jim Fielding.
Jim Fielding is a respected leader in brand strategy, consumer products and experiences, and storytelling. He is a passionate advocate and philanthropist for the queer community, higher education, and diversity, equity and inclusion . As author of All Pride, No Ego (Wiley, Aug. 15, 2023), he is committed to safe and authentic spaces for all individuals.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. I am the son of a 3rd generation Firefighter and Stay at Home Mom. I have a younger sister and we were the typical Midwestern working class family, except we did have a boat that was the source of all of our summer vacations. After high school, I attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where I majored in Political Science and minored in Business Administration.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
As a young child, I was obsessed with anything Dr. Seuss, and loved the visuals and the rhyming patterns. It was the foundation for my love of storytelling. As a teenager, I would say Catcher in The Rye. I identified with the protagonist, Holden, and fantasized about us as best friends. Reading was and is an escape for me.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“I want to be a Human Being, not a Human Doing”. I came to embrace this quote through hard-earned lessons and imbalances in my personal and professional life. At one point, I felt like a machine on auto pilot, just replicating a formula. I was good at it, and could mask my feelings of inertia, but I was not present in my life at work or at home. Getting a Labrador Puppy woke me up a bit, as you need to be fully present to train and teach a new puppy in your home. Simple joys abound when you stay focused on “Being” and not “Doing”.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
This is such a difficult term to define simply, and I feel that the definition evolves over time. For me, I need to add 2 words to the front of “Leadership”: Authentic and Situational. I know that leadership is bringing your authentic self to your group every day and creating an environment where your team prospers and performs through embracing their authenticity. Leaders also need to adapt their styles to the realities of marketplace and group dynamics. For example, growth periods require vision, direction, and enabling resources. Difficult periods require focus, discipline, and hard decision-making skills. Good Leaders know how and when to adapt.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. In the summer of 2020, the United States faced a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on what made the events of 2020 different from racial reckonings in the past?
2020 felt different with the impact of social media, 24-hour news cycles, and the onset of the Covid pandemic with its inherent isolation. Somehow, it felt more tangible to more people, especially the younger generations and social media provided vital forums for discussion, anger, and activism to live. I also feel the amount of graphic and difficult footage around key events made it feel different. Finally, more people simply participated in the discussion as they were in their homes and glued to media, working from home or in lock down.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
I have been working on DEI initiatives for years and watched them grow and change over time. Initially, it felt like mandatory training classes that everyone needed to complete for the HR department or legal compliance. Over time, the discussions and trainings became deeper, more personal, and more focused on true culture change. It became about personal acknowledgment of inherent biases, and healthy team discussions about respect, trust, and belonging. I saw this change in my work with Fox Pride, which started as a June pride month panel discussion and evolved into a year-round employee group committed to real change in the Fox culture and workplace. Living and working in California put me at the forefront of this work I realize now, and I know not every region in the USA or world is at the same stage in this process.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Diversity of thought, experience, culture, gender identity, race, and age create strong performance and team dynamics. I am committed to having executive teams and teams overall that reflect the communities that we are serving. Employee recruitment, retention, and satisfaction all grow in authentic cultures of Belonging. I embrace leading through and with people and enabling their best output and growth.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. You are an influential business leader. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”? Kindly share a story or example for each.
- Know and Embrace your Authentic Self. Do the work to understand your strengths, developmental opportunities, and inherent biases. Be vulnerable, sincere, and transparent with your teams and actively listen and learn.
- Stay Constantly Curious and Be and Lifelong Learner. The world, the marketplace, and people are constantly growing and changing. Technology improvements and new tools emerge at warp speed. Different generations of team members require different management and leadership techniques. I do not think a leader can ever be “done” and think that their toolkit or style is “finished”. Darwin’s work showed us to adapt to our environments or perish. To remain relevant and successful, you must commit to always learning and growing.
- Be a “Pearl Hunter”. I learned this from one of my amazing Italian team members at Disney. She taught us all that it is the manager or leader’s role to recruit, retain, and develop all kinds of talent at all levels. Her method involves truly active listening and observation to uncover the pearls that exist in your team and need to be nurtured and cultured. She taught us to look for these pearls in unexpected places or people and to embrace them fully when discovered. Once identified, the challenge becomes to hold onto them and help them shine over time. Simple, yet powerful insight and guidance.
- Create a work environment that enables Authenticity and a true sense of Belonging. Human beings crave connection and community in all aspects of their life. In work settings, most people want to be more than a cog in a wheel doing a “job”. They want to be part of a productive team that is making a difference and performing together. It is the leader’s role to structure and enable environments that create and support this vision. To be honest, I have had to learn new skills in this area with the onset of Covid and the subsequent virtual and hybrid work locations. The principles of engagement, and authenticity survive any location or medium.
- Control the Controllable but Leave Space for the Possible. As a leader, you need to provide direction, context, structure, and process for your team. You need to present a vision, define success, and enable authenticity. The truth is, however, that you cannot control everything and predict the future. My style is to control what I can effectively, plan what is possible, and then to Let Go a bit to allow the natural flow of events. I was not always like this. I would stress myself and my teams through an over emphasis on control. Yes, I have a high attention to detail, and a lifetime of experience to draw on, but that does not mean I have all the answers. I do not trust any leader who thinks they have it “nailed” and are not open to the new and unknown.
We are going through a rough period now. What makes you optimistic about the future of the US? Can you please explain?
The time I spend on the campuses of Indiana University give me hope for the future. The students I meet, including my own niece, constantly surprise and impress me with their global awareness, activism, and insights. They are passionate about social justice, human rights, and environmental policy. They vote, they protest, they listen, and they learn. Every time I am feeling down or worried, a campus visit will rejuvenate me. My hope is that all of us “elders” will listen to them and learn from them. This generation is much more educated and participative, and it is even more amazing as they had to deal with some pandemic years impacts on their education. Maybe that is why they are so active. The world we have created for them is not always positive, or easy, and I think they realize that they have a responsibility to do better than the generations before them. I want to support and enable them in any way I can. That gives me Hope.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. I want to listen and learn from him not only as the leader of the world’s largest technology company, but also a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. I am a brand fan and a personal fan.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Jim Fielding All Pride of No Ego On 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.