Inclusive leaders get better business results – lower turnover, high engagement, more innovation – just to name a few. Yet, sometimes leaders don’t know what to say or do to show they are inclusive. Delloite has researched and developed the 6 C’s of inclusive leadership – cognizance, courage, commitment, collaboration, cultural intelligence, and curiosity.
Markets, customers and employees are only getting more diverse. Despite the recent pushback on diversity efforts, global organizations and innovative organizations know that they need to stay focused on diversity to remain relevant long-term. That means leveling up inclusive leadership skills.
Consider these six questions to determine your inclusive leadership capabilities:
- Cognizance: How aware of your own biases and how they may affect your leadership style and decisions?
- Courage: How open are you to speaking up and challenging the status quo when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion?
- Commitment: How dedicated to creating a culture of inclusivity and willing to take action to make it happen?
- Collaboration: How often do you seek out diverse perspectives and work to create an inclusive team environment?
- Cultural Intelligence: How capable are you at recognizing and adapting to different cultural norms and values in order to build stronger relationships with diverse stakeholders?
- Curiosity: How genuine is your interest in learning about and understanding different perspectives, experiences and cultures long-term?
Cognizance is the Achilles heal of the most well-intentioned leaders. We don’t know what we don’t know. That means exploring your biases, and beliefs and reflecting on past decisions.
Inclusive leaders recognize and acknowledge their own biases. Being cognizant of your own biases is the first step in becoming an inclusive leader. This might mean taking a close look at your own lived experiences and pre-existing beliefs to identify any implicit biases that you may have. Inclusive leaders understand that unconscious bias can have a significant impact on decision-making processes, and they work to minimize the impact of bias by actively seeking out diverse perspectives and feedback.
One other way to build more self-awareness is to reflect on past decisions and actions to identify areas where you may have unintentionally excluded or marginalized certain groups. By being cognizant of these instances, you can work to make changes and avoid similar situations in the future. If you’re still unsure, seek feedback from others to gain a better understanding of how your actions and decisions are perceived. Ask the question – what is one thing I could do differently to be more inclusive?
To demonstrate more courage, consider your fears and your triggers. What mistakes or weaknesses are you afraid of admitting? Part of being an inclusive leader is being vulnerable and also accountable to the learning opportunities along the way. If you have a stumble or bumble, or a colleague does, asking the question of how can we learn from this is pivotal. Overall, inclusive leaders must be willing to take risks, be vulnerable, speak up for what is right, empower their team, and challenge the status quo to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace.
Commitment long-term is necessary to be a truly inclusive leader. Fluctuating up and down with the news cycle is an obvious way to inauthentically show up in the conversation. People are watching your behavior every day as a model and blueprint of what leadership looks like. When it’s inconsistent or waivers from other people’s opinions, it is easy to determine it is performative. Not having a strong long-term commitment to inclusive leadership often can create more harm than good.
Perhaps the most obvious of the 6 C’s of inclusive leadership is collaboration. It’s hard to do diversity work independently. It often relies on a group of divergent thinkers to be done properly. That means that inclusive decisions can take longer. The upside is the decisions are more innovative and problems are often solved more deeply. Think about your favorite days and how your work is done. Do you prefer to work independently or as a group? Do you gravitate towards people like you or do you resist affinity bias and seek out diverse perspectives?
Cultural intelligence is a skill that can be developed through learning, exposure, and practice. It involves understanding and appreciating the cultural differences of individuals and groups and adapting one’s behavior and communication style to build trust and rapport with them. It is an essential skill for individuals and organizations operating in a globalized and diverse world.
To enhance your cultural intelligence, you can start by educating yourself on the cultural practices, beliefs, and values of different groups, and exposing yourself to diverse cultures through travel, reading, and engaging with people from different backgrounds.
You can also practice active listening, empathy, and adapting your communication style to the cultural norms of the person or group you are interacting with. Rather than judge cultural differences, you embrace them as an inclusive leader.
The opposite of judgment is curiosity. The final C requires leaders to stay open to new ways of thinking that are often very different than the ways of the past. To stay curious, consider these reflection questions:
- What is the lesson I keep having to unlearn or relearn?
- How often do I say “I’m curious” or “I wonder?”
- What don’t I understand yet?
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It’s necessary for today’s leaders to stay relevant to shifting demographics in an increasingly global work environment. Inclusive leaders that practice the six C’s get more out of their teams and achieve better business results.