Shannon Alum Chris Taylor Uses Values to Lead Change for a Diverse, Inclusive and Equitable Minnesota
When Chris Taylor was chief inclusion officer for the Minnesota Historical Society, his staff gave him a plaque for his desk that read, “Agitator in Chief.” For Chris, an alum of Wilder’s James P. Shannon Leadership Institute, it’s a reminder that changing systems to become more diverse, inclusive and equitable can ruffle feathers.
“With diversity and equity work you’re essentially saying the system that has been created and supported by leadership is oppressive, but you need leadership to come to the table to change,” says Chris, now the chief inclusion officer for the state of Minnesota. “How do you do that?”
Chris says the values he identified through the Shannon leadership program helped him find the voice and courage to stir up change in a respectful and collaborative way. “I can look at the Shannon as a turning point for me as a leader,” Chris says.
Chris refines his leadership style with values-based Shannon program
The James P. Shannon Leadership Institute, one of Wilder's community leadership programs, provides a structured, supportive and encouraging space for leaders to clarify their core values and define the purpose of their work. Participants move through the program with cohort of about 20 other leaders and work closely with facilitators. During immersive retreats, they take time and space to focus on themselves and their values.
Chris wasn’t expecting a values-based leadership program when he joined the Shannon in 2015. He thought he would receive traditional leadership development training, similar to others he had completed. “Coming out on the other side, I was appreciative that the Shannon was what it was, because I think it was more impactful on me as a leader,” Chris says.
When he joined the Shannon, Chris was transitioning into a new role as chief inclusion officer at the Minnesota Historical Society – the first of its kind at a major museum in the nation – and he wanted to boost his leadership skills. Through the Shannon’s values inventory, Chris used an extensive list to narrow his beliefs to a few core values: equity, authenticity, and integrity.
As he worked through the program, Chris realized he wasn’t showing up authentically at work and that his integrity required him to demonstrate authentic leadership. Because Chris also values collaboration and teamwork, he found ways to give people the opportunity to have conversations and become part of change. “It’s the sweet spot between being the agitator and also getting people to come along with me,” he says.
Chris brings values-based approach to inclusion in the governor’s office
During nearly five years as Director for Inclusion and Community Engagement, Chris worked to create a more inclusive Minnesota Historical Society. His office worked to provide inclusive programming, develop relationships with diverse communities and increase the cultural competency of staff at the organization.
Recently, Chris left the job to become chief inclusion officer for the state of Minnesota, where he will continue his predecessor’s work to create a culture that values diversity and inclusion in the governor’s office and across state agencies. Among other duties, he will chair the One Minnesota Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
He continues to use self-reflection and other skills he learned in the Shannon at work and throughout his life. His partner, he says with a smile, can tell when he enters a reflective mode and will ask him what’s going on. “I think it impacts me every day,” he says.