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    February 17, 2023

    Leadership Superpower: Cultivating Inclusivity

    In today's diverse and globalized business landscape, inclusive leaders can boost their business’ fortunes. For better or worse, leaders play a pivotal role in shaping organizational culture and the degree to which diversity, equity, and inclusion are cultivated. A leader who values inclusivity recognizes the importance of creating a workplace environment that is welcoming, respectful, and supportive of all employees, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or any other personal characteristic.

    Leaders who prioritize inclusivity understand that fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace isn’t just the right thing to do; it has a positive impact on the bottom line. Research has shown that organizations with a diverse and inclusive workplace culture have better employee morale, are more innovative, and are higher performing. (For example, see Diversity wins: How inclusion matters  by McKinsey & Company.) Further, these organizations are better able to attract and retain top talent, and to serve the needs of a diverse customer base.

    Leaders are responsible for building culture and driving
    change. Today’s successful leaders go beyond simply making a business case for
    diversity—they take active steps to foster an inclusive culture.

    One CEO’s Inclusivity Journey

    I once provided consulting services for an innovative technology firm. Under the leadership of a successful CEO, who I’ll call Sarah, the company was seeing impressive growth. However, the leadership team conducted an employee satisfaction survey and found that many team members didn’t feel valued and included. This is when she sought my assistance. My assessment confirmed that some team members felt that their opinions were not being acknowledged and that they were not given the same opportunities for growth and progression as their colleagues.

    Determined to change this, Sarah decided to personalize her approach to leadership. She started by embracing diversity in all its forms and encouraging open communication. She set up regular town hall meetings in which employees could share their thoughts and feelings, and she made sure to listen actively to what they had to say.

    Sarah was also flexible and adaptable. She understood that each person had different needs and preferences, and she was willing to accommodate these differences. For example, she allowed employees to work flexible hours in order to care for family members, and she offered support for those who were struggling with mental or physical health issues.

    In addition, Sarah provided opportunities for growth and development. She encouraged all of her employees to continue learning and growing, both professionally and personally. She set up programs for skill-building, mentorship, and networking, and she made sure that everyone had access to these resources.

    Most importantly, Sarah led by example. She showed her team that she was committed to promoting inclusivity through her behavior and language. She set expectations for respectful and inclusive interactions, and she held everyone accountable to these expectations.

    As a result of Sarah's efforts, the company became a truly inclusive and diverse workplace. In my engagement, I saw that the workforce felt valued and included, and they were all working together to create a better future for themselves and their families. The company continued to grow and thrive, and Sarah was widely perceived to be a great leader, one who brought her team together and helped them reach their full potential.

    Key Traits of an Inclusive Leader

    In creating and sustaining an inclusive culture, Sarah modeled all of these traits:

    1. Lead by example. Leaders demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and trust through their behaviors, language, and attitudes. This includes engaging in open and transparent communication, acknowledging and addressing unconscious biases, and valuing diverse perspectives.
    2. Encourage open communication. These leaders foster an environment in which employees feel comfortable sharing their opinions, ideas, and concerns. This can be achieved through regular open forums and town hall meetings.
    3. Build an inclusive work environment. Inclusive leaders create opportunities for employees from diverse backgrounds to collaborate and interact with one another. To do so, they promote flexibility, giving teams the opportunity to work remotely as well as on flexible or part-time schedules.
    4. Promote employee engagement. Employee engagement is a critical component of building trust and inclusivity. Leaders can encourage engagement by involving employees in decision-making processes, providing opportunities for professional development and growth, and recognizing and rewarding employees for their contributions.
    5. Encourage diversity in recruitment. Inclusive leaders broaden their pool of potential candidates by diversifying their recruitment sources, for example, by reaching out to organizations and groups that represent diverse communities.
    6. Regularly evaluate and address pay equity. Leaders should regularly evaluate pay equity and address any disparities that are found. This may include conducting regular pay audits, using compensation software to monitor pay, and providing training for managers on pay-equity best practices.

    Today, leadership efficacy and inclusivity are inextricably linked and both play a critical role in a company’s prospects. Leaders who prioritize inclusivity create a workplace culture that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive, which in turn drives innovation, improves employee morale, and enhances financial performance. By embracing the principles of inclusivity and taking concrete steps to promote diversity and equity, you can create a workplace that is truly welcoming to all employees and that maximizes the potential of every individual.

    Marie Kalliney

    Marie works with clients to ensure their business strategies are positioned to sense and respond to the market. She also works with technology teams, ensuring their mindset and practices are aligned and optimized to deliver efficiently for business outcomes. Marie has pioneered the application of agile principles and...

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