The imperative of inclusive leadership

We are all better when we are together

Clark Dumont

The irony of “Inclusion” is it starts with “I”, me. That is the opposite of what it is. Today, “We” is the new I. Inclusivity is an essential need today for leadership in all areas of our lives.

For the past, several decades there has been a rightful focus on the need for diversity in society, communities, and organizations. The need has come front and center in the last weeks not only on the streets of our communities, but also at work and in the boardroom.

MGM Resorts International, a global hospitality company based in Las Vegas, is a leader in diversity. It was a business prerequisite for us — a foundation – to operating successfully by anticipating and responding to the needs of a globally-diverse customer base. It was a value proposition and competitive differentiator.

Yet we had a leadership reality check when we realized that to have true and sustaining diversity and to truly reap its benefits, we had to first ensure an ecosystem that embraced and promoted Inclusion.

Recently at a leading nonprofit organization where I have been consulting it came to the forefront. We have been working through a thoughtful strategic thinking and planning process. Through a series of workshops that involved all staff, core values were identified and articulated. Along with teamwork, integrity and excellence, we identified the value of Inclusion.

The bottom-up processwas in and of itself inclusive, ensuring we had involved, included and heard the voices of everyone, and as a byproduct helping to ensure staff buy-in and ongoing implementation of the plan. Yet recently the executives said they were surprised that staff were not feeling included and respected.

As together we weather the pandemic, we are emerging from the collective trauma into the world of the new-new. Successfully navigating the new-new is demanding that leaders promote an inclusive environment. Inclusivity must move from theoretical to operational.

Successful inclusive leadership is based in intention and through three pillars:

  • Self-awareness of the leaders’ style, of potential personal implicit bias and how it impacts the members of the team; practice leading with humility. As Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry, puts it, “People want to know that they matter, not merely accepted.”
  • Commitment and advocacy for diversity. Walk the talk, create a trusting environment through curiosity of others and cultural intelligence.
  • Create a trusting and open dialogue up and down and side to side throughout the organization – empowerment that celebrates the differences that brings the elements of the organization together to make it stronger.

Demonstrating intention, numerous organizations are creating departments of diversity and inclusion to provide strategic and tactical leadership. Other strategies include awareness training into equity and micro aggressions, hosting the creation of employee resource groups, incorporating inclusion and diversity into strategic plans as well as operating goals and objectives, individual performance plans and facilitating “360” reviews to provide the forum for insights and feedback. A great place to start is an organizational SWOT analysis and data.

Like exercise, inclusivity will yield benefits in operational performance, attraction and retention of talent, success – and reputation.

“Mutual caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in other’s achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain.” – Fred Rogers

We are all better when we are together.

New Hampshire native Clark Dumont has been a senior communications executive at MGM Resorts International, BAE Systems and Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield.

Categories: Workplace Advice