Leaders play a unique role in building cultures of global inclusion. As role models, influencers and decision makers, it is vital that leaders develop, harness and display what it means to be inclusive for the people they lead and serve. This is often a challenge for organizations today because many of the characteristics of inclusive leadership have not always aligned with some traditional leadership principles that exist around the world. For example:
- Leaders in many parts of the world have been groomed to be excellent speakers, but listening and taking perspective are hallmarks of inclusive leadership.
- Leaders are often valued for their individual perspectives and wisdom above others, but inclusive leaders are curious, have a growth mindset and admit that they do not have all the answers.
- Questioning leadership is taboo in many cultures, yet is important to achieving global inclusion. Leaders are humans, too, and need to be mindful of their biases and how to catch them before they do harm. To learn how to manage implicit biases, check out our new Overcoming Implicit Bias
- Successful leaders are known for their authenticity, but the modern leader must also be flexible, especially in a globalized workplace. This can be at odds with remaining authentic, but being flexible in one’s thinking and acting is key to leading in culturally appropriate and inclusive ways. Reconciling authenticity with flexibility is central to inclusive leadership, but it’s also important to remember that authenticity is key to being trustworthy and ultimately inclusive.
Putting inclusive leadership into practice is the challenge of the day. What matters is that leaders have the vocabulary, the mindfulness and the resilience to practice and talk about building a culture of global inclusion from the inside out. To build a new inclusive culture from the ground up is an active experiment that requires everyone’s participation, and without leaders who know how to help people learn more inclusive behaviors, the experiment will never bear fruit. This requires leaders – and their colleagues – to undergo comprehensive global inclusion training that teaches the skills needed to work effectively in a global landscape, such as flexibility, authenticity and resilience.
As a global leader, for example, being resilient is critical given the level of complexity and ambiguity that comes with leading on a global scale. Inclusive leaders are by default resilient and know how to cope with the stressors of the balancing act that comes with building a culture of global inclusion.
Collaborative leadership is another facet of this experiment whereby leaders enable inclusive collaboration through an authentic and flexible approach to team-building. These leaders have an understanding of how to integrate diverse individuals into a hybrid team culture that honors diversity at the individual level and attempts to integrate that diversity into a middle ground where everyone is engaged and able to contribute. We might call this “cultural integration,” which is an important exercise for leaders to do on a continual basis with teams and groups of all sizes.
Developing a leader’s capacity for inclusion is an ongoing commitment to being intentional at every step of the way. This requires an immense amount of energy at the start of the journey, but gradually leads to a more “automatic inclusion” that takes less and less effort. As with the mastery of any skill, practice makes perfect. To start, consider taking an inclusive leadership training course, such as our new Becoming an Inclusive Leader course.
What’s one thing you can do to be more inclusive today? Let us know in the comments!