Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss

Leadership in the Era of Corporate Social Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Non-Fiction - Business/Finance
236 Pages
Reviewed on 10/02/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Dr. Jordan Alexander for Readers' Favorite

Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss by Omar L. Harris is not your average business book. As a Star Wars fan, I was intrigued as I recalled the Jedi as noble protectors of peace and justice, unified as guardians in the galaxy. It is apt that Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss deliberately aims high as Harris boldly sets the leadership bar to tackle the biggest and most important issues of our era: Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. His book provides the context for his call to action, touching on everything from epigenetics and women’s rights to Black Lives Matter and the #Metoo movements. Harris powerfully connects the J.E.D.I. leader’s role as going beyond the boardroom to influence community and global change while combating workplace discrimination, stigmas, and the hostility unleashed over generations. Adamant about creating alliances to fight against the toxic elements of the status quo, Harris advocates “the end of the boss,” referencing the Dutch word “base,” which means “master.” Welcome to the Resistance!

Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss offers a leadership primer on how to value people and the planet, set goals and values to be a J.E.D.I. leader, and act on the intent of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “Once ego is eliminated from leadership,” the bestselling author writes, “what is left is humility, will and empathy.” Harris uses practical examples like comparing N.B.A. and N.F.L. responses to social justice, tracing diversity from the 1960s with John F Kennedy, and including personal challenges like Harris being the only African American person working in a company of 30,000 employees when he started his global pharmaceutical career. Harris talks about J.E.D.I. leaders confronting challenges with “curiosity and a lack of fear,” something he did when bravely writing this book. At times confronting, it is the feeling of discomfort that will evoke action and change as individual leaders, business teams, and globally for society. Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss is a must-read book for all leaders wanting to meaningfully change the status quo and create a better future for all people and our planet. A powerful and compelling read.

Asher Syed

Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss by Omar L. Harris is a business self-help guide to promote positive “Leadership in the Era of Corporate Social Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” The J.E.D.I. acronym included in the book’s subtitle stands for exactly that: justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Over a dozen chapters, Harris breaks down how we got here, the damage caused by toxic work environments, and modifying company culture, initiatives, policies, politics, and dynamics to put the right foot forward and repave the ground that has been uneven for far too long. Harris’s work includes, but is not limited to, areas such as accountability and new standards, pitfalls and motivation failures, ego, allyship and proactive anti-racism, false narratives that link equality to socialism, diversity, communication, and adapting new operating procedures, as well as engagement, community, and profitability.

Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss has a compact format but packs a massive punch for a book that is not very long. I’m not sure what more Omar L. Harris could have covered with greater space and I found the information easy to digest without compromising on its fantastic content. As a person of color who has always worked in homogenous environments where I was the odd man out, there was a lot of head-nodding while I read. The narrative is comfortably conversational and encouraging, and the writing is well-executed. I liked the examples provided and Harris’s backing up of stats with quantitive data. The section that touched me the most was in Chapter 9 under the heading Fighting For Fairness. It is not enough to simply empathize with employees and their lived experiences. We must actively seek ways to fight for justice. For equity. For diversity. For inclusion. As Mando would say, “This is the way.” Very highly recommended.

Joe Wisinski

Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss: Leadership in the Era of Corporate Social Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion by Omar L. Harris is written for those in leadership positions. Harris says leaders sometimes fail because they focus overwhelmingly on profits rather than people. He writes that businesses should take a role in erasing injustice and inequity. They should also value diversity and inclusiveness. So Harris created the J.E.D.I. system—Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. He says using his principles will increase value for employees, customers, communities, the environment, and shareholders. Harris’s book includes fictional but realistic case scenarios, numerous real-life examples, and a history of how our current business environment came to be. The book also includes some surveys, such as one that lists how many women currently serve in senior leadership roles and organizations worldwide.

Every business leader, or potential leader, should read this book. It would also be excellent for college students who are studying for a business career. Although Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss is written for businesses, the leaders of any organization, such as religious or charitable entities, would gain much wisdom from reading the book. Author Omar L. Harris writes from experience—he worked in management for some large U.S. corporations—and his advice and examples ring true. One of the aspects I liked best was the numerous hyperlinks to relevant topics, such as stories in magazines that relate to the topic he’s currently discussing. Those resources help make this an invaluable book, and I highly recommend it for any leader or would-be leader.

Vincent Dublado

Leadership practices have long been lured to the dark side. This results in leaders and executives falling short of implementing responsibilities designed to inspire and put an end to their sense of privilege as bosses. As a follow-up to The Servant Leader’s Manifesto, Omar L. Harris’s Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss puts into perspective the value of social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (J.E.D.I.) as driving forces toward effective management. Gone are the days of the normalized negative behaviors that include racism, bias, sexism, and manipulation that create a sharp divide within the work environment and cause rifts and isolation. A J.E.D.I. aims to empower and build up everyone to maximize their full potential and improve the condition of everyone's lives.

Omar L. Harris has a way of using Star Wars as an inspirational metaphor to highlight the key points in this narrative: he may well be one of those Jedi Consulars who makes an in-depth study of the mysteries of the Force. He draws from his own experiences and presents his solutions with easy-to-remember phrases that truly sound like a Jedi’s words of wisdom to live by. But the true value in this work lies in his ability to present a solid case against toxic managerial styles and attitudes that are proving to be counterproductive in today’s globalized environment. Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss has that subtle crusading image that calls for change: a call that draws attention to and encourages a more open-minded and more accepting attitude toward the contributions that others bring to the table. It is a passionate and life-changing read and you will miss out if you don’t take a look.

Sefina Hawke

Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss (Leadership in the Era of Corporate Social Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) by Omar L. Harris is a non-fiction business/finance book best suited for a diverse audience of readers who are either in a leadership position or looking to enter a leadership position. The author makes use of his 20+ years of global executive experiences to teach leaders and would-be leaders how to push back against the status quo and embrace diversity and inclusion. This book is a guide for those looking to be more than just a paper-pushing boss, but instead a J.E.D.I. Leader and fighter against injustice and inequity. Are you ready to walk the path of a J.E.D.I. Leader?

Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss by Omar L. Harris is a well-written book with an attention-grabbing title that lived up to its promises. It was the J.E.D.I. acronym that first caught my attention, but the content kept me reading. As an industrial and organizational psychology student, this book helped the concepts that I learned in my classes click into place. The book was a truly interesting read, and the author has a much better voice than the authors of my textbooks. The author’s writing style served to teach me how to be a J.E.D.I. Leader, and to inspire me to want to be more than just a boss. Overall, I found the book to be an invaluable resource and one I plan to revisit when I enter a leadership position in the future!