Inclusive Leadership For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
Now more than ever, inclusive leadership must become the new normal. Inclusion is the degree to which an employee perceives that they’re a valued member of the work group and encouraged to fully participate in the organization. That means that an inclusive leader demonstrates the skills and creates the kind of work environment where all talent can thrive because they feel valued, respected, that they belong, and are set up for success. As such, this means that leaders must shift their mindsets and adopt new skillsets in order to meet the demands of the global changing marketplace, workplace, and the communities in which they do business. It also means embracing inclusion as a leadership responsibility and a performance expectation that is as common as managing projects and serving customers.

Becoming an inclusive leader isn’t as easy as it sounds. Inclusive leadership is much more than having a title, giving a hug, and being nice. It requires a paradigm shift, an openness to different ways of doing things, leaning into some discomfort, and demonstrating courage to embrace the unfamiliar. This Cheat Sheet provides food for thought, best practices, and strategies, as well as guidance on how to become a more inclusive leader and how to drive it inside the organization.

The six “C”s of inclusive leadership

To meet the needs of the changing global workforce, leaders must be able to embrace the differences that workers represent and demonstrate behaviors that are inclusive and that foster an inclusive work environment. One of the most practical and useful models outlines six traits of inclusive leadership and embodying these key traits lets leaders operate more effectively in leading teams within diverse markets, allows them to better connect with diverse customers, access a more diverse spectrum of ideas, and enable diverse individuals in the workforce to reach their full potential.

  • Commitment. Highly inclusive leaders are committed to diversity and inclusion because these objectives align with their personal values. They know that by committing their time, energy, and support to investing in people, they engender inclusive workplaces. By demonstrating this level of commitment, they empower and inspire others to achieve their potential.
  • Courage. Inclusive leaders challenge the status quo and aren’t afraid to call out deeply held and ingrained beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that foster homogeneity. They are willing to have the difficult conversations and lean into their discomfort.
  • Cognizance of Bias. Inclusive leaders understand that personal and organizational biases narrow their field of vision and preclude them from making objective decisions. They exert considerable effort to identify their own biases and learn ways to prevent them from influencing talent decisions. They also seek to implement policies, processes, and structures to prevent organizational biases from stifling diversity and inclusion.
  • Curiosity. Inclusive leaders have an open mindset and a hunger for other perspectives and new experiences to minimize their blind spots and improve their decision making. Additionally, their ability to engage in respectful questioning, actively listening to others, and synthesizing a range of ideas makes the people around them feel valued and respected, and a sense of belonging. Inclusive leaders also refrain from making quick judgments, knowing that snap decisions can stifle the flow of ideas on their teams and are frequently marked with bias.
  • Cultural Intelligence. Inclusive leaders have an ability to function effectively in different cultural settings. They also recognize how their own culture impacts their personal worldview, as well as how cultural stereotypes can influence their expectations of others. They know when and how to adapt while maintaining their own cultural authenticity.
  • Collaborative. Inclusive leaders understand that collaboration is the key to team performance and success. As a result, they create a safe space in which all individuals feel empowered to express their opinions freely with the group without judgment or retribution. They also realize that diversity of thought is critical to effective collaboration; thus, they pay close attention to team composition and team processes.

Meeting the needs of a changing workforce

The following checklist contains 12 common practices that help you prepare for and meet the needs of the changing workforce:

  • Assess your current internal workforce.
  • Upgrade recruitment strategies.
  • Evaluate flexible work arrangements and offer multiple options.
  • Offer ongoing development and education.
  • Conduct succession planning.
  • Stay informed about external factors.
  • Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
  • Seek expert guidance.
  • Strive to be an accessible leader.
  • Focus on employee engagement.
  • Monitor legal compliance.
  • Measure progress.

Discovering your purpose

This list of questions helps to define and refine your purpose. If you are already clear about your purpose, use them to reaffirm your purpose. Ask yourself:

  • What am I most passionate about?
  • What activities or hobbies bring me the most joy and fulfillment?
  • What are my strengths and talents?
  • What did I enjoy doing as a child?
  • What would I do even if I didn’t get paid for it?
  • What am I naturally good at?
  • What do others often compliment me on?
  • What are my values and principles?
  • What are the core values that I hold dear in life?
  • What causes or issues do I deeply care about?
  • What subjects or topics can I spend hours exploring without getting bored?
  • What impact do I want to make on the world?
  • What positive change or contribution do I want to see in the world?
  • What do I want people to say about me at my celebration of life (eulogy)?
  • Are there any significant life events or experiences that have had a profound impact on me?
  • What have I learned from my challenges and successes?
  • What roles and responsibilities resonate with me?
  • What roles do I naturally gravitate toward in my personal and professional life?
  • What responsibilities do I willingly take on without feeling burdened?
  • What inspires me in others?
  • Who are the people I look up to, and what qualities or actions do I admire in them?
  • What role models have influenced my values and aspirations?
  • What dreams have I put on pause?
  • What do I keep procrastinating on but wish I could get it done?
  • What would I achieve if I weren’t so fearful?
  • What skills or competencies do I want to develop further?
  • To what extent am I fulfilled right now? What would make me feel more fulfilled?
  • If I had all the money I needed and knew that I wouldn’t fail, what would I be doing in business and in my personal life?

Creating a positive employee experience

What does your organization do to create a positive employee experience? What do you do as a leader do? Here are some practices you can implement; many of them seem incredibly simple, but leaders often underutilize them.

  • Create meaning and purpose. This is a powerful driver for employee engagement and satisfaction. Workers seek more than just a job; they desire a sense of connection to something significant and bigger than themselves. Encourage this by casting a compelling and inspiring vision for the organization. By doing so it helps employees understand how they fit into it and the broader impact of their work.
  • Provide clear objectives and goals for achieving performance. Ensure that these markers align with the broader mission and strategic priorities of the organization as well as with the company’s values. Most importantly, be sure that you are living the values and walking the talk. Employees will see the disconnect and respond accordingly when you don’t.
  • Identify worker potential and help workers grow and develop new skills. Recognize the strengths, talents, and aspirations of individual employees and provide them with training programs, mentorship, and clear career paths and support. Employees are more likely to thrive in an environment that offers opportunities for professional growth.
  • Recognize and appreciate good work. Foster a culture of appreciation and recognition. Acknowledging and celebrating individual and team accomplishments reinforces the idea that each person’s work is valued and contributes to the organization’s success. Workers want to hear “thank you” more than leaders think, and they like creative and fun ways to show appreciation.
  • Give the “what” and “why” of tasks and leave the “how” to your staff. People want autonomy and freedom to figure things out versus being micromanaged and/or prescribed that something has to be done a certain way. They also want to be asked for their input and for it to be seriously considered.
  • Admit when you make mistakes and use them as teachable moments for the team. Allow the team to do the same and to share their failures and how they course-corrected. Acknowledging errors demonstrates humility, transparency, and a commitment to continuous improvement. When leaders openly admit their mistakes, it fosters a culture of accountability and trust within the team.
  • Treat each person as an individual and appreciate their uniqueness and diversity. Recognize differences in backgrounds, beliefs, skills, and life experiences without making assumptions or generalizations. This contributes to a positive and inclusive atmosphere, and may include offering flexible work arrangements, accommodations, or tailored development opportunities.

Leading like an eagle

Did you wonder why the cover of Inclusive Leadership For Dummies shows an image of eagles? It’s because we can learn a lot about inclusive leadership from eagles. There are important parallels between the features, attributes, and characteristics of eagles and the qualities of effective and inclusive leaders. Consider the following parallels:

  • Having great vision. One of the most striking features of eagles is that they have exceptional vision. An eagle’s eyesight is four to eight times stronger than that of an average human. They can focus on things more than three miles away and are rarely distracted, which is a demonstration of their visionary capabilities. Similarly, inclusive leaders are visionary leaders who communicate a compelling picture of the future that inspires their team and promotes commitment to their goals. Inclusive leaders will see the vision through to completion and will not lose focus even in times of change.
  • Navigating stormy turbulence. Eagles fly higher than all other birds due to their superior strength, and they love to fly during storms. They are known for their remarkable ability to not only endure but thrive in stormy weather. The inclination of eagles to soar through storms can be attributed to several factors. First, they use the winds gathered by a storm to fly even higher while most other birds are taking shelter and waiting for fairer skies. Second, their mastery of flying in storms is attributed to their strong wings and agile maneuvering capabilities. And third, the choice of eagles to fly in storms may also be linked to their predatory instincts. Storms can disorient prey and make hunting more accessible for eagles. Relative to inclusive leaders, they are not afraid of turbulence, uncertainty, or the storms of life because instead of battling them, they take them in stride and move forward. In the realm of inclusive leadership, storms or challenging situations represent diversity, adversity, and varying perspectives within a team or organization. Inclusive leaders harness the strength derived from diverse viewpoints, enabling their teams to rise above challenges with collective resilience. They are also able to navigate their team through these disruptive times and to seize opportunities that others might overlook.
  • Exhibiting fearlessness. The eagle is renowned for its unconquerable spirit, demonstrating a steadfast determination to persevere, irrespective of the strength or size of its prey. Eagles are tremendously territorial. If another bird gets too close, the eagle fights ferociously. Even when faced with the most daunting challenges, they relentlessly protect their territory. Similarly, inclusive leaders must choose their battles, but when the fight matters, they can model themselves on an eagle’s tenacity.
  • Being attentive and nurturing. Eagles have well-deserved reputations for ferocity but are in fact very attentive parents to their eaglets — in fact, they are among the gentlest birds in the animal kingdom when related to their young. When teaching an eaglet to fly, an eagle will first model the way, only encouraging their young to glide on the wind when they’re ready. When ready for flight, the parent eagle hovers just below, ready to catch them if necessary. Inclusive leaders who face all their challenges with strength and audacity can learn a lot from eagles in this regard. They should pay attention to their staff, encourage them to grow, let them fly on their own, but never force them to do something that would compromise their health or safety.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Dr. Shirley Davis brings a unique background as a seasoned HR, DEI, and global workforce expert, a senior business executive for several Fortune 100 companies, a certified leadership coach, and a popular LinkedIn Learning author. She is CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, a strategic development solutions firm that specializes in leadership and culture transformation and works with major organizations around the world.

This article can be found in the category: