We Need Inclusive Leaders Right Now More Than Ever

There's never been a time where more people were interested in learning, or more was at stake.

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By Simone Morris

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After reading about the Trump administration's recent efforts to halt federal agencies' diversity and inclusion trainings, I questioned the authenticity of such a move. It seemed counterproductive to the battle of racism America is currently grappling with. While most people are learning about antibias, antiracism, and equity, this decision sends a strong message to leaders and constituents. Imagine if your organization took that stance. What would be at stake?

As a leader, taking a stance that you don't value diversity, equity, and inclusion training would most certainly impact your bottom line.

  • Consider the backlash to the Goya brand when CEO Robert Unanue aligned himself with a non-inclusive leader; customers called for a boycott of the brand. Unanune's commitment to his Hispanic customer base was questioned. People were tweeting homemade solutions to replace Goya's products.
  • Contrastly, Penzey's CEO, Bill Penzey, has long used his voice to call the President a racist. In personal communications with his customers, he is a human rights activist. In his newsletters, Penzey offers up his spices with a mix of editorial commentary on what's happening in the country. He has shared pins, stickers, discounts, and more in support of inclusive leadership. He's openly acknowledges that some customers have chosen to say goodbye to his company because of his outspoken postitions, but he's persevered in his commitment to doing what he calls the right thing to do.

In 2020, companies are called out when they demonstrate a lack of commitment to creating inclusive cultures. A laissez-faire attitude will not serve you well in this scenario. Instead, buckle up and take courageous action on your inclusion journey, knowing that you will likely feel turbulence before a smooth ride. Want to know if you're ready?The following characteristics are vital for any inclusive leader.

Related: Be Intentional About Diversity

Behaviors of inclusive leaders

  • Self-Aware. Inclusive leaders are aware of their conduct and its impact. They are willing to work on themselves and course-correct when they make mistakes.
  • Honest. Inclusive leaders model open communication. They strive to take the higher moral ground.
  • Curious. Inclusive leaders seek to understand. They embrace curiosity as a tool to understand differences and to unlearn deep-rooted lessons that cause harm. They are willing to grow and learn new capabilities.
  • Courageous. Inclusive leaders know that the inclusion journey will not always be comfortable. They will experience constant discomfort, but persevere despite that understanding.
  • Support. Inclusive leaders use their platforms to provide support for what they believe. This support is demonstrated through consistent action (financial contributions, partnerships, etc.).

Examples of inclusive leaders

  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, stands behind modeling an inclusive culture. His message is consistent. At a recent developer's conference, he spoke passionately about his beliefs and commitment against racism.
  • Kenneth Frazier, CEO, Merck Corporation, has long been a supporter of inclusion. He has taken courageous action to stand against non-inclusive behaviors. One such action called for stepping down from a very visible council that didn't align with the standards he held as an inclusive leader.
  • Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors has been lauded for her inclusive leadership style. After the George Floyd murder, she immediately created a council that reported directly to her to listen to others.
  • Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments. Mellody passionately speaks about the need for change and has a no-nonsense attitude about actions necessary for inclusive leadership.
  • Melinda Gates is cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She leverages her influence to promote gender equality globally.

Today, more than ever, you are needed. If you haven't expanded your leadership skills to include inclusion, there's never been a better time.

Related: Want to Improve Your Company's Diversity? Go Remote.

Simone Morris

Career/Inclusion Strategist

Simone Morris is CEO of Simone Morris Enterprises LLC, a certified minority- and women-owned business enterprise. She is an award-winning diversity and inclusion leader and a consultant and speaker committed to educating companies to walk in integrity when it comes to inclusive leadership.

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