The work of The Leaders Circle and the Calgary Black Chambers are two organizations that are contributing significantly to Calgary’s reputation as the most liveable city in North America.
“We saw an opportunity to expand the quality of life for Black people in Calgary,” says Brian Lanier, chairperson with the Calgary Black Chambers (CBC), as well as the CEO of The Leaders Circle (TLC). “Our commitment is that this city is the best place to live, work and play for Black people, for Indigenous people, for People of Colour and, ultimately, for all people.” Lanier also sits on the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility Subcommittee for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
The Calgary Black Chamber’s nurturing of Black students for the future and The Leaders Circle (TLC) focus on developing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace are helping to supercharge the city as the place for Black people to live, work and play.
The journey and the impact
Lanier started as a dishwasher, working his way up as the youngest manager of a restaurant chain in the United States. Immigrating to Alberta in 1982, he became a regional VP of Starbucks. After 20 years, he left the industry to start his own leadership and organizational consultancy firm in 2004, but Lanier’s hard work would be challenged by lessons along the way.
“When I started TLC, I was very fortunate that one of my first clients was Brad Shaw, the current CEO of Shaw Communications,” he says. “We did nine years of high-performance leadership training with them, which is pretty rare. I learned that if you don’t have the top leadership actively supporting what you do, it will make no lasting difference. We were doing fine with our programs throughout Canada and the US, and then George Floyd’s tragic murder happened.”
This incident shook Lanier, rousing him to redefine what he was doing and why. His business transitioned at that point from executive leadership training to equity, diversity and inclusion training. “I discovered these were all parts of DE&I training, which is ultimately awareness, leadership and communication training, so that people can feel included,” he says.
The Leaders Circle recognized that progressive change in management structures and practices—the organization’s original mandate—must also include the rooting out of systemic discrimination. This insight would become TLC’s primary objective through education and open discussion or “brave space conversation,” says Lanier. The program is, therefore, tailored to top-level management interested in growth and development. He notes that emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion are must-have foundations for success in today’s workplace.
Since its inception, TLC’s work has been transforming people and cultures. Lanier says he has witnessed a more “authentic welcomeness,” compared to his arrival to Canada in the 1980s. “I think that’s a credit to the city’s ongoing maturity and openness to different cultures. But by no means are we done or perfect.”
Fostering tomorrow’s Black leadership
With his passion and expertise, Lanier joined the Calgary Black Chambers, a non-profit group of Black professionals and entrepreneurs, now in its third year, working together to eradicate systemic racism in Canada. Lanier is the current chairperson for the organization.
“We’re committed to increasing Black leadership capacity and uplifting Black youths through community volunteering and providing scholarships for our future generations,” Lanier says. “We have mentorship, advocacy and fellowship programs. So far, our organization has raised over $100,000 in scholarships for Black students.”
In celebration of Black History Month, CBC is partnering with Heritage Park to host their Annual Black History Fundraising Dinner on Friday, February 10, to support the organization’s scholarship fund.
“This venue was chosen because the Heritage Park board members share CBC’s commitment to change the narrative about the role Black people have played and continue to play in enriching Calgary and southern Alberta’s heritage,” Lanier says.
Award-winning and internationally acclaimed Cheryl Foggo, CBC member, will be the keynote speaker. She will highlight the unsung but critical role the Black community has contributed over 140 years in establishing Western Canada. “It will be an extraordinary evening of fascinating storytelling and entertainment,” Lanier says. “Most people don’t know about these incredible stories.”
Partnering for the next chapter
Lanier is far from done and excited about the future with his strategic alliance with LearnIt.com, a globally focused San Francisco-based training and development company. “They selected us as their premier deliverer of all diversity, equity and inclusion programs,” he says. “We will also provide remote training through our partnership.”
Lanier also joins forces with Calgary tech startup company Monark, who are automating the science of leadership development. “Their app provides our learners a stickiness factor, if you will,” he says. “People can go back and do some self-paced learning that is a complement to our in-person training.”
For more information, visit leaderscircle.com and calgaryblackchambers.com.