Inclusive leadership is an important attribute for organizations to embody as we culturally evolve in our workplaces. Our workplaces are growing ever more diverse, as long standing societal boundaries are being replaced by awareness of the need to be more inclusive. The companies having the most success being more inclusive, and in turn, the best growth, depth of talent pool, and demonstrated adaptability are the ones led by inclusive leaders. Having inclusive leadership helps recruit new talent and ideas as well as attract more diverse customers and markets.
No matter what someone’s background is, there are qualities of inclusivity that are crucial to nurture in order to honestly manifest and create an inclusive company. Indeed, the single most important factor in generating a sense of inclusiveness in an organization according to a Harvard Business Review article is the acknowledgment of a leader’s awareness of bias. But awareness alone is not sufficient. Leaders must walk the walk. And of course, it’s a simple and comforting thing to think to yourself “I’m not biased.” It is quite another to have a proven perspective outside of your own to gauge the potential for truly effective inclusive behaviors and to provide insight into what aspects of oneself might require attention and development.
Most leaders want to be inclusive, but many have not actually carried out a personal inventory of what predispositions, habits of mind, attitudes and behaviors they have that contribute to their effectiveness at including others.
One rigorous assessment that measures capacities that predict inclusive behaviors is the Inclusion Competencies Inventory (ICI). The results from taking the ICI provide a comprehensive look at specific individual qualities that predict inclusive behaviors.
Reflecting the wisdom of the ancient Greek Delphic maxim of “know thyself”, the ICI focuses first on understanding oneself, particularly regarding how open one is to change and how easily one adapts to unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. A second set of dimensions focuses on our willingness and ability to connect with others who are different from us. And related to this is the ability to effectively read those who are different from us – to recognize what they may be feeling, what their motives might be, and what they are trying to communicate. The third set focuses on two key qualities necessary to bridge differences. The first is openness to other perspectives and the capacity to value different perspectives. The second focuses on understanding the power dynamics that are often in play when people who are different come together to accomplish things in the workplace. It is by accurately assessing this triad that the ICI is able to identify those qualities that undergird the actions of inclusive leaders.
The ICI systematically assesses six qualities that contribute to effective inclusive behavior. The ability to:
- Be open to change
- Adapt easily
- Connect with others
- Read others
- Value different perspectives
- Perceive and understand any disparate power dynamics or sensitivities present in situations.
According to many prominent business thought leaders, leading an organization without an effort to understand oneself and others along with a capacity to bridge differences is impossible (e.g., the American Bar Association, the Council for Inclusion in Financial Services, the Center for Creative Leadership, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal). Assessing where a leader is in their understanding of themselves and others is essential in creating an environment that embraces diversity and a culture that encourages inclusion. A truly inclusive leader, and by extension,a truly inclusive company, requires firstly assessment and, by extension, a willingness to develop one’s capacity to be inclusive. Using this knowledge in a positive way can bring about a shift in perspective and an incentive for individual development that is the foundation for organizational action.
The ICI is one of the best tools available for someone to identify where they are and the trajectory they need to follow to become a more inclusive leader. As our society continues growing and evolving in its efforts to be more inclusive, there is a high demand for leaders who can lead inclusively. Establishing yourself as an inclusive leader and mapping a path for developing greater inclusive capabilities in yourself and your peers and direct reports is essential to your company’s continued growth and success. Gathering data and an objective assessment of this growth potential is indispensable to truly becoming a competent and dynamic, inclusive leader. This is the power of the ICI.