Leading in Colour: The Fierce Urgency of NOW

‘Leading in Colour – the fierce urgency of NOW’ is aimed at white leaders across the public sector, and in particular, at Chief Executives, Council Leaders, Partnership Boards and their teams.

It’s designed to be both an urgent call for action and a helpful resource to support you to become and stay an inclusive, culturally competent leader in a fairer workplace, as well as an active contributor towards creating fairer communities. It provides the context, the inescapable evidence and the tools to help you initiate deep-rooted and sustained change for colleagues and for communities.


This publication offers you insights and learning on understanding and combatting inequality, recognises the context of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and highlights what we know so far about the impact of COVID-19 on existing inequalities experienced by Black people.

It shares the voices and views of Black staff and provides an overview of multi-dimensional racism on the lived experiences of families and communities.

It constructively challenges you to consider and act on all forms of racism in your workplace and across the communities you support and serve. Recognise your own instincts to resist or minimise concepts. Stay with troubling feelings as you explore your thinking. Use them to galvanise your leadership action.

We offer practical support, strategies and resources to you, a white leader, to help you act on uncomfortable truths and lead enduring, inclusive change.
So read, reflect, own and step up to the plate to lead and champion your organisation and your communities to become and stay inclusive, diverse and fair, right now.

Printed copies of Leading in Colour: The Fierce Urgency of NOW

Copies are available for £5 directly from The Staff College.

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What Our Readers Have Said


Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

This is a brilliant resource. It gives clear guidance on what I can do, should or shouldn’t do. Answering the questions that white leaders may not feel able to ask (and telling them they should ask them) was very helpful.
Kathryn Smith Chief Executive Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

Oonagh Smyth, CEO, Skills for Care

Skills for Care is committed to being an anti-racist organisation which is why we have made equity, diversity and inclusion a key part of our new strategy. This means being strong in our allyship for colleagues who identify as being from a BAME background because change will not happen unless something fundamentally changes. We as leaders have a responsibility to lead that change and create inclusive and fair workplaces because if we don’t, who will? So we are pleased to support this toolkit created by the Staff College which includes some of Skills for Care’s thinking and research. We still have a lot of work to do in Skills for Care, but Leading in Colour – the fierce urgency of…
Oonagh Smyth CEO Skills for Care

Kathryn Perera, Director Horizons Team – part of NHS England and NHS Improvement

Leading in Colour is accessible, well-structured and (most importantly) practical. I found that it helped me not simply to “admire the problem” but to identify starting points both for thinking and acting differently as a white leader. Two things I’m taking away immediately to use with my team in the NHS: the Cultural Competence Continuum and the idea of “courageous conversations” which create inclusive, mutually supportive spaces for listening and sharing. Leading in Colour is an essential guide for NHS leaders who want support to challenge what they think they know and how they act.
Kathryn Perera Director Horizons Team NHS England and NHS Improvement

Professor Keith Moultrie, Institute of Public Care, Oxford Brookes University

This publication captures some key areas of action that leaders need to focus on, it is positive and action-oriented and has the potential to be a valuable, easily accessible resource for leaders.
Professor Keith Moultrie Institute of Public Care, Oxford Brookes University

Dez Holmes, Director of Research in Practice

A timely and powerful report, inviting all of us – but especially white leaders in public services – to do and be better. Unflinching in its challenge, it draws on research and lived experience to highlight just how much more needs to be done, and – crucially – how much we can do. If you find yourself not wanting to read it, take that as a sign you probably need to.
Dez Holmes Director Research in Practice

Tricia Pereira, Director of Operations, Skills for Care

We know that around 21% of our 1.5 million strong workforce identify as being from a BAME background so Leading in Colour – the fierce urgency of NOW offers white leaders in our sector the tools they need to have honest conversations about how to create inclusive and fair workplaces. Skills for Care carried out a survey of over 500 care workers identifying as BAME who highlighted their experiences of institutional and systematic racism, and a lack of development opportunities leading to underrepresentation in senior roles. The thinking and practical support in Leading in Colour – the fierce urgency of NOW can only help leaders across our sector address the issues respondents raised. We are pleased to support this toolkit…
Tricia Pereira Director of Operations Skills for Care

What’s in this publication for you?

Wherever you lead, the brief context ‘Looking you in the eyes’ highlights the urgency of coming off the touchline and leading the action to combat racism within the workplace and for local people now.

Subsequent sections bring together interconnected issues and ideas in one place, with direct questions throughout to challenge and channel your thinking and action:

Meet the authors

Rose Durban

Rose began her career as a teacher for children with SEND. She’s a former DCS in a number of authorities and has worked as a DfE intervention adviser. She’s an executive coach, currently doing some independent children’s services improvement support, including leading a number of peer reviews. She’s a member of a NICE public health committee and adviser to their centre for guidelines.

Rose is the Independent Person for her local council, a Samaritans volunteer and chairs two local school boards. She is a trustee with the Laurel Trust, which supports research in schools serving areas of multiple disadvantage.

What matters to her is working to change lives and life-chances across communities and ensuring that those who work with them are safe, supported and able to do their jobs well.

Meera Spillett

Meera, a former Director of Children’s Services with a social work background, has over 35 years’ experience in the social care and education sector. Meera helped design the Black and Asian Leadership Initiative (BALI) for The Staff College to support aspiring Black leaders. She is the author of ‘Black Leaders Missing in Action’ and ‘Cultural Competence’.

Meera continues to support BALI and contributes towards anti-racist and culturally competent approaches to support organisations, individual practitioners, and their communities. She has recently joined the DHSC Advisory Group for the Social Care Workforce Race Equality Standard. Meera started life as a looked after child, is disabled and manages a number of long-term health conditions, she is a breast cancer survivor following treatment in 2020.

Rosemary Campbell-Stephens MBE

Rose began her career as a teacher for children with SEND. She’s a forme

Rosemary Campbell-Stephens MBE is a veteran educator who received her professional training in England, but her breadth of experience is international. Rosemary is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University College London. Her ground-breaking leadership work as part of the London Challenge 2003-2011 was in developing a leadership preparation programme focussed on increasing the numbers of Black and Asian educators in London Schools.

Rosemary provides bespoke training and coaching internationally and is a sought-after keynote speaker in her areas of expertise and passion, namely developing anti-racist decolonising practice, in pursuit of equity and social justice in educational leadership. Her book on decolonising leadership preparation builds on her work in the UK and Canada and will be published in autumn 2021. In 2016 Rosemary was awarded an MBE for thirty-five years’ service to education in the United Kingdom. She was honoured to accept the award for recognition by her peers of activism.