Encouraging Thriving & Belonging: The Inclusive Leader Continuum

In today’s fast-paced and extremely VUCA business world, building teams that thrive and innovate is critical for success. However, this can only be achieved through inclusive leadership, which promotes equal collaboration and joint success. On the other hand, the absence of inclusive leadership can have negative effects on an organization’s bottom line. However, Jennifer Brown’s book “How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive“, offers a practical guide to becoming an inclusive leader. The book lays out a four-stage path called the Inclusive Leader Continuum. It enables leaders to understand where they currently stand, where they aspire to go, and how to move forward in their journey towards becoming inclusive leaders. By following this path, leaders can create a culture of belonging where everyone can thrive and, in turn, achieve greater success for their organisation. Let’s examine the four stages of the Inclusive Leader Continuum:

  • Unaware: This stage is characterized by a lack of knowledge about inclusivity and diversity issues. Leaders in this stage may not recognize the impact of their actions or the experiences of those around them. Consider a leader who is in the unaware stage, who may make jokes or comments that are insensitive to certain groups without realizing it. Furthermore, they may also overlook diverse candidates for job positions because they are not aware of the benefits of having a diverse team.
  • Aware: In this stage, leaders become more conscious of inclusion and diversity issues. They learn about different identities and experiences and begin to understand the importance of creating a culture of belonging. They may also begin to ask questions and seek feedback from team members to better understand their perspectives.
  • Active: At this stage, leaders take action to create a more inclusive environment. They proactively address bias, engage in active listening, and work to ensure equal opportunities for all team members. So, they may create policies and procedures that promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace. They may also provide training to their team members on topics such as unconscious bias and actively work to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.
  • Advocate: In the final stage, leaders become champions of inclusivity and diversity. They use their influence to transform biased systems and promote equal opportunities for everyone. So, they may use their position of power to advocate for systemic change. For example, they may create initiatives to increase diversity in leadership roles or push for policies that promote equal pay. They may also speak out against discrimination and actively work to create a culture where everyone feels valued and included.

To become an inclusive leader, you must start by taking an honest look at yourself and how you interact with the world around you. Self-awareness is crucial for assessing your current position on the Inclusive Leader Continuum, identifying areas where you may lack knowledge or skills, and measuring your contribution to your organization’s cultural inclusivity. By doing so, you can develop a plan to move forward with confidence and become a more effective and empathetic leader. Remember, self-assessment is the first step toward growth and progress.

Additionally, you need two key qualities: humility and courage. While traditional leadership styles may have served you well in the past, it’s important to recognize that inclusive leadership requires a different approach. Firstly, humility is key. As an inclusive leader, you need to be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers and that you’re open to learning from others. This approach not only creates a more collaborative and inclusive environment but it also helps your team feel more engaged and valued.

Secondly, you need courage. Inclusive leadership requires you to be willing to take risks, challenge the status quo, and stand up for what’s right. By doing so, you demonstrate to your team that you’re committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone feels respected and valued. Practising humility and courage in your leadership style helps create a more inclusive workplace culture that benefits everyone.

Creating a culture of belonging is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business. The Inclusive Leader Continuum is a powerful tool for leaders who want to make a real difference in their workplace culture, performance, and the lives of those around them. By acknowledging where they are on the continuum, having the humility and courage to address bias, and taking action to promote equal opportunities for all, leaders can build a culture where everyone can thrive. So, if you’re a leader who wants to take your organisation to the next level, embrace the Inclusive Leader Continuum and start creating a culture of belonging that will benefit everyone.

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