How to be an inclusive and effective leader
What makes a team want to stay with a company for the long-haul?
As a leader you spend your time and resources building a team that will produce extraordinary work. You invest in them and see a return on that investment in the quality of the work. But high turnaround can limit your return on investment.
A key factor in your team’s loyalty and longevity is their satisfaction in your leadership. Many workers site inclusive leadership to be a top priority.
Inclusive leadership is leadership that unifies employees, celebrates diverse perspectives, and elevates a variety of voices and ideas. This is the type of leader who makes it their mission to provide space for all of their employees. They encourage them to bring their authentic self to the workplace. Employees will have stronger allegiance to a person they feel respects them and values their identity.
The core principle of this leadership style is genuineness.
This type of leadership calls on the leader to be sincere, humble, and inquisitive. This type of leadership requires commitment and continuous work.
So what makes an inclusive leader?
Notable Effort: They make an active and sincere effort to build/lead a diverse team, engage in meaningful dialogue, hold others and themselves accountable, and promote inclusivity as a founding pillar in the company mission and operations.
Willingness to Receive Criticism: A humble attitude allows them to be open to criticism, own mistakes, and provide opportunities for others to lend their ideas and expertise.
Self-Accountability and Bias Checks: They are aware of their own limitations, mistakes, as well as failures within the system. They work tirelessly to repair and create a better, fairer, and stronger system.
Interest and Investment in Others: They seek to understand those around them and refrain from judging. They make an earnest effort to listen, learn, and respect all despite differences (racial, cultural, ethnic, religious etc.).
Practices Cultural Sensitivity and Education: They adapt policy and procedure to respect other cultures.
Collaborates Constructively and Effectively: They encourage their team, are mindful of diversity, and promote team unity.
Provides on-going initiatives/opportunities: They know their work is never done. They emphasize educational/advancement opportunities.
What is most important?
There is no top trait.
Each trait has equal importance in contributing to an inclusive leadership style. However, being an inclusive leader does not simply mean checking off each trait from the list. Inclusive leadership is an ongoing process that requires commitment and resources.
Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
Ways to engage: putting this leadership style into action.
Create a task force:
Establish a diverse panel of peers with the mission to uphold the core inclusion values. Use them like an advisory board. Provide resources and the education that reflects the company’s mission and specific inclusion goals. They provide constructive feedback on the leader’s everyday behavior. They determine how they enhance (or detract) from inclusion efforts.
For example, after a meeting the panel may evaluate a leader’s language, allocation of space, and commitment to calling-in:
- Language-How did the leader use pronouns in hypotheticals, are they using a variety or male-dominate?
- Allocation of space- How did the leader direct the conversation and/or attention of the group? Was it equal or did it favor those with similar backgrounds and experiences to their own?
- Commitment to calling-in-Did the leader give space and call-in employees who are under-represented? Did they emphasize a broad range of viewpoints? Or did they seek ideas from people co-located to them?
Once they've determined the leader's strengths and indicate areas needing improvment they can share their assesemnt. It is their goal to help the leader provide a safe and inclusive workspace. They should be committed to doing similar work on their own behaivors.
This panel should have good rapport with the leader and provide clear and helpful feedback. Their efforts are on-going and should emphasize continual growth.
Hold regular town halls:
Another way for leaders to demonstrate their commitment is to address their own biases and share their growth. A town hall provides space to share personal stories. A leader can discuss their checked biases and share their moments of strength/growth. This demonstrates their humility and willingness to do better.
These meetings should encourage others to highlight their own shortcomings and insights.
Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable having conversations about uncomfortable things.
When done correctly, these meetings will reinforce the company’s commitment to inclusion and help the leader address their team with humility (a key factor in addressing and correcting bias).
Consider Different Perspectives:
The idiom goes, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” This is true even in the workplace. For a leader to fully understand their employees they should immerse themselves in as many different roles and departments as possible. By being exposed to different levels, roles, and areas within the the company and asking questions a leader can better understand new perspectives. This will also disrupt any preconceived notions/judgments and give them a personal connection to their team.
Putting It All Together...
- What does it look like (and why is it important)?
- What does it mean for your business?
Inclusive leadership is critical to earn a dedicated and loyal workforce. It encourages diverse talent and creates strong bonds within the team.
Being aware is crucial to a leader’s development, but awareness without action isn’t enough. This type of leadership requires a combination of those traits and actions. It is a genuine commitment to continual personal growth and creating an inclusive work environment.
This type of leadership can enhance your company's workplace culture. It amplifies different talents and perspectives that can enhance marketing, sales, and innovation.
Want to know what kind of leader your team needs?
Reach out to our team. We create empowered leaders. We have helped countless business owners investigate their own leadership style and build goals to accommodate their unique business plan.
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