5 Ways To Be An Inclusive Leader

inclusive leader

The terms diversity and inclusion have long been hot topics of conversations and discussions in the hallways and boardrooms of organizations. While it’s now common for companies to make earnest attempts to diversify their workplaces, they often fall short of being truly inclusive. For many, the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” are interchangeable, but there are profound differences between the two. As attorney Verna Myers says “diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” Diversity alone and hiring diverse talent is not enough. An inviting, fair and respectful workplace must be the end game.

Workplace leaders can promote inclusion by being inclusive leaders. How can you be a diverse leader and move your company from diversity alone to the potential that comes from inclusion?  There are several things you can do and we offer you five ways below.

Acknowledge your biases and how they impact your worldview.

Often, we see the weaknesses in others before we see our own. However, inclusive leaders must be humble, look at their own implicit biases and admit theirmistakes. Ignoring your biases not only inhibits personal development but it colors how you perceive and engage with those around you. Inclusive leaders must acknowledge and seek the contributions of others to overcome these limitations anddemonstrate a willingness to learn from diverse perspectives. Inclusive leaders should monitor their own behaviors to ensure that they treat all opinions equally and respectfully.

Value individuals for their talents and contributions to the team.

Leaders must appreciate the diverse backgrounds, talents, personalities and contributions of all team members. And, subsequently, allow diverse employees to express their identities while communicating the value of diversity for team effectiveness. Inclusive leaders must actively seek out diverse viewpoints and make sure everyone on the team feels their voice is heard.

Develop members of their team on merit and be more transparent about assignments and promotions.

According to a 2015 CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation poll on race, 26% of blacks and 15% of Hispanics said they felt that they had been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity at their place of work in the past 30 days. Similarly, surveys done by UCLA’s William’s Institute, revealed that 21 percent of LGBT employees reported that they had been discriminated against in hiring, promotions and pay. With disconcerting statistics like these, it is imperative that leaders level the playing field by focusing on employees’ work and performance when considering promotions. Also, opportunities for company advancement must be shared with all employees so there is equal opportunity to apply. If an employee complains about being passed over for a promotion or assignment, company leaders must be honest about the reasons why.

Hold people accountable for disrespectful behaviortoward others who are different.

An inclusive leader must have the courage to speak up, confront and challenge others about negative behavior. Those team members must know that that type of behavior won’t be tolerated in an environment that values diversity and inclusion. Inclusive leaders must continually work to create environments that are respectful for all employees.

Be intentional about diversity in recruitment and hiring.

Inclusive leaders look for opportunities to diversify their workforce. No, this does not mean to the exclusion of others. It’s simply purposefully using a diversity lens when seeking employees. Whether these potential employees’ diverse identity expression is based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation or thoughts and ideas, it’s important that inclusive leaders bring them into their organizations.

And, there they are. The five points you need to be an inclusive leader. It allows your company to leverage the wealth of knowledge, insights, and perspectives in an open, trusting, and diverse workplace. Being an inclusive leader is not just talking about equality, diversity and engagement, but also implementing them, believing in them and promoting them.

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