In the realm of leadership, intentions alone are not enough to foster diversity and inclusion. Although many leaders genuinely aspire to create inclusive working environments and break down barriers, their behaviors and leadership styles often fall short of their goals. Despite their good intentions, it is their actions that ultimately shape the organizational culture and impact the experiences of employees.
We commonly observe that leaders struggle to recognize how their normalized, rewarded, and commended leadership styles contribute to the problem. It can be challenging to see what you can't see. However, as the leader with hierarchical power and the greatest influence, it is essential to start by examining oneself and committing to driving meaningful change.
The journey begins with self-reflection. Are you willing to do the necessary work to uncover your blind spots, change your habits, and adopt a leadership style that promotes positive change? This introspection is crucial because there is no magic solution or simple formula to increase diversity and empower employees. Each leader must assess how they contribute to existing biases and dynamics within their organization.
Consider the following questions as you embark on this journey of self-improvement:
Demonstrating Conduct: What kind of work hours do you keep, and what example are you setting? Do last-minute deadlines and constant changes create unnecessary pressure? Are you prioritizing upfront planning and preparation, or do you rely on shortcuts? Reflect on how your behavior influences the work culture.
Emphasizing Results: Are you pushing your team to achieve results at an unsustainable pace? Do you prioritize outcomes over well-being? Examine whether you are striking the right balance between productivity and employee empowerment.
Achieving Work-Life Balance: What sacrifices are you making at home, and how does that impact your ability to support your team effectively? Recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance and encourage your employees to do the same.
Developing Self-Assurance: Are you actively fostering the growth of confidence among your team members? Do you provide opportunities for their voices to be heard and valued? Consider how you can empower individuals and create an environment that promotes inclusivity.
The Power of Active Listening: Are you truly listening to others, or is your mind constantly preoccupied? Practice active listening by giving your full attention and seeking clarification when necessary. Create space for open dialogue and respect for diverse viewpoints.
Broadening Connections: Evaluate the diversity of your social networks. Do they reflect a range of perspectives and backgrounds? Are you open to hiring individuals from different demographics? Embrace diversity in all aspects of your professional life.
Questioning Language Usage: Examine the language commonly used within your organization. Are there subtle terms or phrases that may perpetuate prejudice or bias? Encourage the use of inclusive language and challenge any discriminatory practices.
By recognizing and working on these areas within yourself, you not only foster personal growth but also become an inspiration for others to follow. As a leader, your actions and mindset serve as a powerful force to drive positive change and cultivate a thriving organizational culture. Embracing this responsibility empowers you to create a lasting impact on both individuals and the collective success of your organization.
It is not necessary to be the most intelligent person in the room or a high performer to welcome inclusive leadership. It involves accepting accountability for the range of your influence and fostering a climate in which everyone can succeed.
Remember, driving change starts with you. It's not about reading a book, implementing policies, or diversifying the board alone. It's about your actions and your commitment to continuous self-improvement.
As leaders, we have the power to make a significant difference. Accepting the inclusive leadership journey will benefit our organizations as a whole.