What does it mean to be an inclusive leader?

Developing habits to be more inclusive

There is a lot of data and thought leadership out there at the moment talking about the importance of prioritising inclusion over diversity but what do we mean when we talk about inclusion?  Being inclusive is something we can all do more of, it is an action – something we consciously DO.  If we feel included at work, we feel psychologically safe to speak up, share ideas, learn and challenge the status quo without fear of judgement or rejection.  This creates a sense of belonging and if we belong, we are more likely to perform well.

As a leader, you play a critical role in enabling people to speak up more.  So how can you take steps to be more inclusive in the way that you lead?  The good news is that inclusion isn’t about big, grand gestures, but created between people moment-to-moment.

Start by reflecting on how you want people to feel under your leadership.  If we were to ask your team how they experience being led by you, what would you want them to say?  Note this down and then start by thinking through some habits you can start to develop in order to be more inclusive.  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Make your intentions clear, start your meetings by saying “as I’m running this meeting, I want to make sure I hear from everyone. If I stop you, please don’t be offended.  I just want to make sure we create space for everyone”.
  • Don’t assume – if people are silent, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have nothing to contribute. When you notice that someone has not had a chance to share their perspective, be an ally and invite them to do so.
  • Role model fallibility – share your own learnings and mistakes. This might inspire others in the team to do the same, and this creates trust.
  • Remember you have two ears and one mouth – listen first to understand and withhold your own opinions until others have had the opportunity to contribute.

Let me know how you get on and get in touch if you’d like further support with this.

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