Head of University of Bristol School of Management responds to the tragic death of George Floyd

“Momma…, Momma.”

These were some of George Floyd’s final words. They will no doubt resonate in the minds of many people – a dying man calling for his mother, whilst in police custody.  Civil action and mass protests are accelerating around the US and other parts of the world in solidarity for George’s family and anti-racism.

Leadership is a powerful weapon to combat racism and we must not forget that we all have a part to play.

As Head of the School of Management at the University of Bristol, whose stated mission to “develop the next generation of future leaders and global citizens”, I wish to reflect on my own responsibility as a leader.

As a woman of colour in a leadership role, valuing difference in society is something that I can advocate and promote on the basis of my own experience.  We educate bright young citizens who go on to shape the global economy, and we can work harder to ensure they reflect the virtues of an open society, with open hearts and minds. Suffice to say, we must – and will – do more.  In doing so, we hope to empower our students to use their activism and unapologetically elicit the influence of powerful peers to enable enduring positive social change.

My message is to leaders everywhere, in industry, government and society, to build on your success and be relentless in your renewed efforts to promote openness, global citizenship and combat racism.  We hope to ensure our graduates will not tolerate social injustice, and be more demanding of leadership and governance, in their search for excellence.  As they emerge as our future leaders, I hope they will be brave and willing to deploy their full executive powers to fight inequality.

We unite with other businesses and management schools around the world, who feel similarly about leadership in new age of global and societal challenges.  As a School, we endeavour to do better and support our University’s commitment to fight all forms of racism and social injustice. The University’s statement can be viewed as follows: https://executive-team.blogs.bristol.ac.uk/2020/06/02/black-lives-matter/

By Professor Palie Smart, Head of University of Bristol School of Management