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How to Lead a Diverse Staff in Times of Tragedy

July 8, 2016, 3:03 PM UTC
Police Shootings Protests Dallas
Police investigatethe scene of Thursday's fatal shooting, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas Thursday night, during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Mark Mulligan — AP

We all woke up to terrible news. If people at work were on edge yesterday, it will be far worse today.

Five Dallas police officers were shot and killed by snipers overnight, during a demonstration over the fatal shooting of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. A reportedly seven others were wounded. Police say they have three people in custody. A fourth shooter, who had been in a stand-off with police, is now dead.

Rifle fire rang out around 9pm local time, scattering the panicked crowd and pinning down police. Cell phone video shot by protestors (and livestreamed on Facebook), and eye witnesses described a chaotic and terrifying scene, yet another grim use case for the power of the technology in the palms of our hands.

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The legendary advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy posted a strong message on their website that offers an excellent example of public leadership at a difficult time: Acknowledge the pain, even if you’re not sure exactly what needs to happen next. (Hat tip to Kleiner Perkins’s design partner John Maeda for pointing it out.)

Why your black co-worker seems especially bitter today…
Why your black co-worker seems especially sad today…
Why your black co-worker seems especially quiet today…

We are processing.

We are asking ourselves what to do.

We are hurt because it feels like watching our own selves get gunned down.

We are telling ourselves, “do not let this make you live in fear. do not let this make you hate.”

But we’re scared for our lives, our family’s lives, our friend’s lives.

We’re mad that the protests aren’t working. Why the video recordings aren’t working.

We’re conflicted, in a place between crippling empathy contempt at a world that seems not to care enough.

We are disgusted at police but telling ourselves, “you can’t hate all police.”

We are wondering the point of a moment of silence.

We are wondering if we ourselves will make it back home today.

We are wondering what to do, what to do, what to do.

Just an FYI, not for sympathy. Just acknowledging this because it should be acknowledged.


How is your organization coping? How are you supporting your colleagues and employees? Share your stories and strategies at

When she’s not writing about the world’s greatest rock star-leader, Ellen McGirt is busy working on Fortune’s raceAhead, a newsletter about race and culture.

This article was updated with the full message posted on Wieden + Kennedy site.