Effective leaders must embrace diversity and learn new skills to promote equity and inclusion in the workplace. Leaders must introduce diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout their organizations in order for all employees to thrive.
In this article, “5 Powerful Ways to Take REAL Action on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion,” the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) recommends certain “mindsets, behaviors, and practices towards more equitable and inclusive leadership.” Leaders can follow these four steps to practice more equitable leadership.
- Reveal relevant opportunities. Senior leaders must evaluate their specific context for how diversity, equity, and inclusion play out and what opportunities for improvement exist. After this analysis, leaders are better able to collaborate with others to envision change and select two to three strategic actions that are likely to achieve that result. For a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative to be effective, leaders must be transparent about how these dynamics impact their leadership or business approach and communicate that with stakeholders.
- Elevate equity. CCL defines equity as the ability to “provide all people with opportunities to attain their full potential.” They propose that leaders prioritize equity because, “without equity, efforts to promote diversity and inclusion are…not sustainable.” Senior leaders must be willing to “acknowledge societal inequities and recognize that “what is ‘fair opportunity’ is not the same for everyone,” because of differences in position, power, or previous advantages. Responsible leaders must set and live out organizational priorities. If these leaders “set clear goals toward greater equity, and then take action, they signal a commitment that becomes the foundation of the organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts.”
- Activate diversity. Leaders must define expectations and set metrics that “explore the impact of diversity on perspectives, assumptions, and approaches and identify ways to enhance the contribution of all.” When leaders recognize and engage the collective differences and similarities among both employees and customers, they can create organization-wide change.
- Lead inclusively. When leaders include others’ perspectives, they “promote the full participation and sense of belonging of every employee, customer, and strategic partner.” Policies and practices will help leaders to formally institute inclusion. Leaders should also build capacity for inclusive leadership across various levels of the organization. This will “improve [employees’] ability to identify and mitigate bias, respect differences, build empathetic relationships, manage conflict, and bring out the best in others.”
CCL shares five practices that organizations can apply in order to create leadership that builds greater equity, diversity, and inclusion.
- Change the conversation – By shifting to more open and direct conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion, leaders can “break down silos and communication barriers.” This, in turn helps to transform organizational culture. Leaders begin to see a culture of “increased openness, respect for differences, and understanding,” which improves collaboration, increases innovation, and boosts effectiveness among their teams.
- Map network connections across boundaries – Network mapping provides insight and understanding about people’s patterns of relationships and interactions. This allows leaders to “see how unintentional bias is built into their networks and [how] that creates limitations for them and their teams.” Leaders then can use this information to engage across boundaries to include people who had not previously been involved in their networks.
- Boost coaching, mentoring, and sponsoring – Employees who are very different from their managers may not have “equitable access to the leaders who can steer them toward valuable experiences and support them through…challenges.” By developing a formal coaching culture or network within their organization, leaders ensure equal access to “enable the development, contributions, and career growth of all employees.” Employees benefit greatly from an elder or senior manager available to support, provide key guidance, or actively help advance their career.
- Analyze talent practices – Leaders should evaluate and “review systems and practices for recruiting, hiring, and promoting talent…audit compensation data…[and] examine employee development practices.” Inclusive leaders will ask the hard or uncomfortable questions about who has access to key assignments, who is receiving coaching, etc. They also work to change policies and practices to be more equitable for all employees.
- Go deeper on identity – According to CCL, “much of inequity is driven by long-established structures, unconscious assumptions, and experiences tied to social identity.” Social identities can include differences in age, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, education, physical ability, and more. When leaders understand the similarities and differences of their employees, they can better recognize the impact that social identities have in their workplace.
With the assistance of good communication, training, and conversations, people can identify ways that everyone’s social identities influence their interactions. In these ways, stakeholders can be more aware how their assumptions may negatively impact others and work toward positive change.
About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship develops change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through a multi-year training class and additional public programs, the DeBoer Fellowship serves Myanmar by helping to grow competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply for the Fellowship, please visit: www.deboerfellowship.org.