• Jackie Capers-Brown

10 Ways to Become A More Inclusive Leader

Leaders of startup businesses, corporate organizations to government agencies need to develop and nurture diverse & inclusive leadership skills that will enable them to build a business and workplace culture that produces serial innovation that drives and sustains growth in this fast-paced changing economy.

Great Place to Work Chief Innovation Officer Tony Bond states “Offering an outstanding workplace experience to every employee matters more now more than ever. The ongoing shift to the knowledge economy – and now to the human economy – along with the rise of Millennials as the largest cohort of American workers, means that offering a personal fulfilling workplace where all employees can achieve their full potential is no longer optional.”

Research conducted by the Great Place to Work organization cites the workplace culture of the future will be defined by three trends:

1.     A fairer workplace for all employees

2.     Increased focused on developing all employees

3.     A deeper sense of purpose for all employees

Leaders that create the workplace culture of the future will be individuals who cherish differences, embrace disruption and foster a speak-up culture according to the Center for Talent Innovation. These inclusive leadership practices encourage employees – at all levels within an organization to share their opinions, suggest unorthodox approaches to problems and opportunities that fly in the face of established practices.

They understand the value of leveraging the collective experience, insights, and talent of a diverse team. This leadership best practice helps team members feel welcomed and included, feel free to express their views and opinions and feel heard and validated which are essential elements to creating a culture that produces serial innovation.

What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” This statement infers that developing one’s leadership capacity to unlock a greater measure of the untapped potential within yourself and/or in others to produce serial innovation requires a shift in your approach to creating your organization’s culture.

Diversity and inclusion is not the same thing. In the context of business organizations – diversity equals representation. Inclusion creates connections to attract and maintain diverse talent, encourages participation, fosters innovation, and leads to organizational growth.

Diversity and inclusion cover not only differences in race, gender, and sexual orientation, but also geographical location, education, work styles, ethnicity and communication styles among others.

Leaders that fail to understand and adopt a broader perspective on diversity and inclusion run the risk of creating workplace cultures that create unfair barriers to the success of diverse employees.

Blind Men and the Elephant

There is a parable about a group of blind men and an elephant. Each man had access to a different part of the elephant. One had the tail and said it felt like a rope. One had the leg and said it resembled a pillar. While another man had the belly and said it felt like a wall. Lastly, the final man had the tusk and claimed it felt like a solid pipe. Later, a man that could see came along and explained that they were all correct. Their reality about the elephant was correct for them because of their perception and placement on the animal. This parable has been used to illustrate the principle of living in harmony with people who have different belief systems.

We all have different beliefs and perceptions about one another based on our experiences assumptions and cultural conditioning. Just like the blind men in the parable, our beliefs and perceptions about one another often reflect partial truths. Without the courage to seek first to understand each other, we run the risk of living our lives believing partial truths about one another.

Leveraging the Power of Diversity & Inclusion

Verna Myers asserts, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Instead of perpetuating the status-quo, leaders with the intention of creating an inclusive workplace culture leverage the power of diversity and inclusion by doing the following:

1.     Believe in the value of diversity and inclusion

2.     Own their biases to shift their behavior for the common good

3.     Engage crucial conversations that are often necessary to address issues at hand

4.     Find role models that emulate inclusive leadership

5.     Be a role model

6.     Be committed to creating an environment where people feel heard, valued and inspired

7.     Help team members understand how they’re contributions add to the success of the organization

8.     Be a voice for those who are not at the table

9.     Incorporate diversity and inclusion into day to day engagement practices

10. Maintain a zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, and exclusion

In general, most people spend at least a third of their waking hours in a workplace environment. Whether you are working for an organization or building your own organization, the culture you nurture and sustain will play a huge role in the level of success that you and your organization achieve. 

Inclusive workplaces are those where a diversity for people feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organization.

Leaders that are intentional towards developing and sustaining a diverse and inclusive workplace culture do so by building and sustaining trust. They support the need for autonomy and collaborative partnerships while holding individuals and teams accountable for results. They provide timely recognition and coaching in support of the growth, development, and advancement of team members. Their behavior serves as a model for how they expect stakeholders to show up in the environment. This inclusive leadership style is more apt to incite high engagement and a passionate commitment towards the completion of tasks aligned with specific outcomes toward short- and long-term goals.

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