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2022 was the first year of diversity, equality and inclusion for inclusive leaders. Our future will be filled with increasing expectations from employees, customers and business partners who expect us to step up and respond boldly to societal needs and concerns across human differences. It won’t be easy, but it will be good.
Let’s bring some substance to our learning how to lead more inclusively. Here we take a closer look at four critical concepts and skills for inclusive leaders in the coming year.
1. Choose kindness instead of blaming others
I’m not sure when or why we allowed kindness to become a sign of vulnerability or ineffectiveness. We have a sickening array of “leaders” demonizing people who disagree with them politically, scold, refuse to care and instead fueling the pain of transgender people. The examples of meanness and cruelty are simply too long to list. Kindness is often seen as a weakness in the workplace. There is an epidemic of giving in to the self-obsessed impulse to right ourselves and wrong others, almost to the treacherous sport of it. That’s one way to destroy relationships. And we see tremendous anger on social media.
Kindness is respecting another person’s dignity in a way that helps them feel happy, comforted, heard, or whole.
Inclusion can be defined in the same way. As an inclusive leader, how do you make sure your colleagues know you care about their psychological safety, daily struggles, and aspirations? Choose kindness and equip others to be right, not wrong. Prioritize relationships.
Related: Why Kindness Is A Crucial Quality For Leaders
2. Commit to evidence-based decision-making
Inclusive leaders think critically, use credible data and make decisions based on that. They involve their teams and colleagues in decision making. This is not an argument for cold-hearted objectivity – inclusive leaders consider the complexities of human identities and try to account for the emotions of everyone involved. Evidence, facts, truth: whatever words you use, the idea is central for effective and inclusive leaders.
Inclusive leaders must reject conspiracy-based opinions without evidence, excessively emotional advocacy that has more to do with advocacy than the issues you’re here for, or endless deliberations or analysis that claim to be “inclusive” at the expense of actually having a good and timely response. decision.
Diversity, equality and inclusion should be a source of rigor in your leadership work. Build a healthy definition of “evidence” (and emotions are a type of evidence) and stay in the game by making inclusive decisions.
3. Focus the future on past realities
This is not a complicated issue: we cannot prepare ourselves and our children for the future if we fear our collective past. No committed inclusive leader will accept a law, policy or practice to censor history because it makes someone uncomfortable. We have to say this outright: it is sheer fear and unproductive denial to pass laws that “protecting white people from discomfortin solving the ongoing ramifications of racism or anti-Semitism or homophobia.
Such an attitude hinders learning, refuses to prepare all of our children for the multiracial and otherwise diverse realities of the world we already live in, and directly supports the forms of systemic bias that true patriots fight every day. Suppose your school district or government has passed such laws or policies as an inclusive leader. In that case, you should consider how you can change such decisions with strong teaching and persistent kindness.
Related: Don’t let fear overcome your greatness
4. Champion demographics as a destination
The multicultural future has already arrived. Perhaps even our families have evolved: babies of color have been the majority of children born before six years of age, and interracial marriages are now commonplace. Study the 2020 census, and you will realize that our population has been diversifying for generations. The identity mix of your customers and employees is completely in-depth right now. The way to learn about diversity is getting broader: neurodiverse, working across generations, navigating languages and cultures to grow globally, understanding the impact of spirituality and religious differences, etc.
Demographics make us think about how our future is already here and getting close. And the elements of DEI will only expand ‘in the future’. All this change weighs on your business model: where you source products and talent, how you manage customer differences and reach new customers, how you collaborate with suppliers and regulators, how DEI equips you to measure what matters in your unit, why you invest in a market or a merger. Inclusive leaders are concerned with demographics, so we have the opportunity to thrive.
These are some of the major challenges for inclusive leaders in the coming years. I encourage you to pursue these four Cs: choose kindness, commit to evidence-based decision-making, align a future with the reality of the past, and advocate for demographics.
And a final thought: Leading with these challenges in mind will help you rebuild and maintain family relationships through the holiday season and beyond. We can listen to build trust and practice inclusive leadership wherever we go.