how to integrate inclusive leadership

Inclusive leaders are those who invite diverse perspectives and create a work environment where people feel that their opinions and contributions matter. People feel valued and appreciated.

To be an inclusive leader is to model, pave the way, and be committed to the outcome of a more integrated, positive workplace for people. This means examining one’s beliefs and biases with a clear eye and self-acceptance, as well as a growth mindset. As a leader your core beliefs and belief systems are being witnessed by others; despite any fears of “getting it wrong,” or not feeling resilient at times, the only way for true change to happen is through your commitment to the oftentimes hard work of staying the course.

This commitment also looks like making and repairing mistakes publicly, taking ownership, and staying open to feedback. Your impact is great and so is the responsibility.

In the a previous article we highlighted the 6 traits of an inclusive leader to guide how you navigate that impact and responsibility with confidence:

  • Commitment – believing in the work and dedicating to the vision of DEIB values, regardless of challenges
  • Curiosity – opening the door to connection with self and others by being authentically curious and okay with making mistakes
  • Cultural Competency – ability to stay open, and learn about different experiences and perspectives, create space for cultural self-expression
  • Collaborative Spirit – generosity, leaning in and ability to work well with others on meaningful work
  • Awareness – the ability to sense what’s needed to deepen commitment, create space for safety, expression, curiosity, develop cultural competency, and amplify collaborative spirit
  • Courage – ability to create and foster brave and open spaces for dialogue, connection, and learning and growth

Your First Steps As An Inclusive Leader

Where to start? And how to start when it feels challenging? A good first step is to create a welcoming environment for people to join, participate, contribute, and connect with others. Setting the tone for inclusion, inviting contribution, delegating, requesting voice and opinion. All these actions create an environment where people will lean in. This takes commitment and the belief that everyone benefits when we embrace inclusion and support and make room for diverse perspectives as we operate and execute our goals.

The 5 Ingredients To Create A Welcoming Environment

Inclusive Leadership thrives when the culture supports true inclusion:

  • when everyone feels seen, heard, and that they belong in their respective workplace
  • when we call in problematic behavior and hold people accountable
  • when we are allies together, because we are stronger together.

It’s rare to see, but an Inclusive Leadership Program with these 5 key ingredients can support this cultural shift in a supportive, welcoming way:

Four Common Reasons
Inclusive Leadership Programs Fail

For many companies, championing an Inclusive Leadership Program is a new initiative, which can come with many easy-to-avoid teething pitfalls.

When clients come to us to design, implement or improve their programs, we usually notice four expectations that hinder progress:

1. The program is not long enough.

Most inclusive leadership programs are a one-day training at best. Maybe follow up coaching if you are lucky. Eight hours to change the behaviors and biases of a lifetime’s worth of lived experiences. That feels like a tall order even for the most skilled trainer. In fact, we often push back on client requests for one off training programs. Because we know that human development takes time for new insights to take root and show up in new behavior, and that resilience is gained over time, we prefer to work with clients to design it an intentional program that deepens both the ROI of their time and investment as well as getting results that stick.

2. Are you just checking a box?

Even with the best intentions, most managers feel like they have to go to a training where they are going to be schooled on what they are doing wrong. Compliance is not a motivator for behavior change. Yet, too often, inclusion and belonging initiatives are treated as compliance, with organizations checking a box that they are taking action. Go for real change that can create a positive impact in your culture.

3. People do not believe it is real.

One of our clients called diversity and inclusion an “initiative,” as if we would solve this problem in a year or two and then move on. True diversity and inclusion work involves a cultural shift. This work takes time, needs champions, and requires heart-felt, authentic and oftentimes vulnerable conversations and situations in order to break new ground.

4. It is not consistent.

Great inclusive leadership skills come from diligent, focused efforts every day. As little as five minutes of intentional focus per day can shift mindsets. It can take more time if you have it. Consistency is where you win people over and they will buy into the commitment. It is a commitment day in and day out.

Let’s Develop Your Successful Inclusive Leadership Program

No two teams are the same. If you need guidance to cultivate Inclusive Leadership in a way that matches your style, team, and culture, we’re here with over 20 years and 11 industries’ experience. Let’s craft a program that works your way.