Book Review: Leading for Justice by Rita Sever

Leading for Justice: Supervision, HR, and Culture by Rita Sever is a thought-provoking and insightful book that delves into the complex issues surrounding leadership and justice in the workplace.

Rita Sever is a twice-published author and a certified organizational coach who has worked in human resources for over 25 years. She primarily works with nonprofit organizations and is a consultant committed to strengthening organizations and advancing social justice. She works with her clients to help them be more successful as individuals, teams, or entire organizations and approaches supervision as a primary leadership function.

As Director of Online Learning & Innovation at the Nonprofit Leadership Lab, it’s my job to find incredible people to come share their expertise with our amazing members, and Rita Sever was a godsend. She did an amazing seminar for us entitled, “Does Your Culture Demonstrate Your Commitment to Justice – Or Undermine It?” where we were challenged to bring our actions in line with our stated values.

In her second book, Leading for Justice: Supervision, HR, and Culture, Rita challenges supervisors to model humility and inclusion in their role. She expertly guides the reader through the intersection between supervision, human resources, and organizational culture, and offers practical strategies and actionable tactics for creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace aligned with stated values.

Rita’s writing style is conversational and easy to follow, making the book accessible to both experienced leaders and those new to the field. Leading for Justice is packed with real-world examples and personal stories which help to illustrate the concepts discussed and bring them to life.

Top view of multiracial stacking hands - International friendship concept with multiethnic people representing peace and unity against racism - Multi racial love and integration between diversity

According to the author, one of the key elements to becoming a more effective leader is regular self-reflection and introspection. She believes that through this process, a leader can better understand their own strengths, weaknesses, and how intentional (and unintentional) actions positively or negatively impact the organization.

It Starts with “Me”

Through self-reflection, a great leader will identify areas for improvement and work towards becoming more successful in their role. Rita encourages readers to take a hard look at their own biases and blind spots and to actively work towards becoming a more equitable and just leader.

Woman seated on sofa, staring off into the distance with a pen in her mouth, reflecting on something before she writes in the journal resting on her knee.

Leading for Justice is organized in a way that allows readers to read it sequentially or to pick and choose sections that suit their needs. It’s designed to be flexible and user-friendly, making it easy for you to find the information you need and apply it to your specific situations.

Immediately Actionable Work

In order to facilitate change in your own life and/or that of your organization, the author concludes each section with a list of questions under the heading “Make It Your Own.” Here’s where you’re encouraged to pause, reflect, and imagine how to address the issues presented there.

A little something you should know about Rita Sever: She’s a white, cis-gender, heterosexual woman who didn’t see a person of color until she was seven years old. She’s done a lot of work both personally and professionally to unlearn early programming and consistently makes a conscious effort to challenge her own biases.

She is also human and sometimes makes mistakes, like we all do. What really makes Rita stand out as an antiracist is her authenticity and humility and willingness to listen and learn. She is a fierce ally committed to equity and inclusion in every aspect of life—especially the workplace, and especially training supervisors in the workplace.

Owning Your Sh*t

In a section entitled “Owning Your Sh*t (Primarily for White Folks),” Rita shares her personal commitment to justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.

“To stand in true solidarity with others, I must be both vigilant and humble. I must be open not only to learning but actively learning, and never reach a point where I think I know it all now. I must read and watch and, most of all, listen. I must be open to feedback. I must be ready to apologize—without making the conversation or situation about me. I must be ready at all times to own my sh*t.”

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Throughout her book, Rita challenges all leaders to try harder—especially white leaders. We have to wake up to the ways “a white supremacist system” taught us to be racist and make a conscious choice every day NOT to perpetuate it.

When You’re the Only One

Sever is sensitive to the fact that some readers may be the only people in their organization doing this work so her brilliant advice is to:

“See what you can see, change what you can change, and show up as the best possible leader you can be for your team and the entire organization.”


It’s only through experimentation, implementation, an open mind to active learning, and humility this work becomes real. And this is the only way we can transform our workplaces and our communities.

Portrait of successful businesswoman using wheelchair at meeting table and talking to diverse group of colleagues in modern office space


Overall, Leading for Justice is a must-read for anyone interested in creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace. Rita Sever’s HR expertise and passion for justice shine through on every page. Her stories will inspire you to become a better leader, and her recommended tactics will empower you to become a better advocate for justice in your workplace. Highly recommended. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔗 Connect with Rita here: Instagram ~ Facebook ~ LinkedIn ~ Twitter

Graphics & Photo credits: All photos licensed for use on this blog by Laura Zielke unless otherwise noted below.

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