Podcast: One Strategy Group's Brian Ellner on the Transformative Impact of Embracing Inclusion

Whether as a lawyer, public affairs leader, or celebrated communicator, One Strategy Group President Brian Ellner has carved out a professional path that has been both change-making and uncompromisingly true to himself. For Brian, that has meant owning his identity as an openly gay man, especially as his career elevated him into spaces of influence across the public and private sectors. 

Of course, achieving that comfort level has come with its fair share of memorable moments and lessons. Brian recently joined marketing executive David H. Dancer on Clout for Good, a podcast created to tell the powerful and personal stories behind today’s most inspiring LGBTQ+ executive leaders, to share insights from his journey. 

Here are his top takeaways:

1. Find your mentors: “She was my first workplace mentor and I never really looked back after that.”

You never know where you may meet the most important guides in your life. For Brian, it was a work retreat bus ride. Despite coming out while attending law school at Harvard, Brian found himself in a predominantly straight, conservative environment during his first positions at a law firm. But, lucky for him, he was seated next to Elaine Johnston on that bus trip. In an era with fewer openly LGBTQ+ corporate leaders, Elaine was an out lesbian law firm partner ready to show Brian that being himself both in and outside of the workplace was possible, and would not impact his career path.

Brian has carried Elaine’s torch, shifting from mentee to mentor over the course of his career. “Something that’s very important, especially for young people, is to see in the workplace that you can be enormously successful if you’re out and true to yourself.” 

2. Understand the potential of embracing your authenticity: “I don’t think you can be effective in life without being your whole self.”

In deciding to be out, Brian has been able to fully realize the impact of his perspective. From playing a major role in the successful marriage equality campaign in New York and working on major anti-discrimination campaigns with the Human Rights Campaign to leading internal efforts at agencies for same-sex family benefits, Brian has leveraged the intersection of the personal and professional to benefit larger initiatives.

3. Keep the mission going through allyship: “I think this is a really big moment to have that conversation.”

Although there has been great progress, there is still work to be done. This is particularly true considering the ongoing backlash against diversity, equity, and inclusion. As someone who works with allies through organizations such as Athlete Ally, Brian is calling on other allies to stand up, particularly in the workplace to foster environments where everyone can be their authentic, most effective selves through programs such as employee resource groups.

For more of Brian’s conversation with David Dancer, listen to the full episode here.