Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Leadership….It Matters
The past week was filled with tragedy, from hate crimes charged with racism in Buffalo to other senseless acts of violence across the country. Following last weekend’s mass shootings and other hate crimes, organizational leadership must take a stand within the community to ensure we can minimize (if not eliminate) violence and eradicate racial bias.
All too often, employees come to work in a state of fear, grief, anxiety, and a host of other emotions that exacerbate an already stressful work environment. As leaders, it is critical that we lead from the heart, and practice what we have learned about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The risks of failure are simply too great not to focus on these critical elements of workplace (and societal) culture.
Diversity is understanding every individual is unique, while recognizing our differences are deeply rooted in our internal, external, organizational, and world views. Equity-first organizations create cultures where all employees receive respectful treatment and every member of the organization has equal access to opportunity. When leadership acknowledges structural and organizational imbalances, and makes a concerted effort to eliminate them, the seeds for an inclusive culture are planted. Further, when the organization as a whole feels a sense of belonging and there are opportunities to voice opinions without feeling excluded based on identity, the culture is able to grow. Conversely, when an organization is populated by people from diverse backgrounds, yet their opinions and views are not taken into consideration, the “diversity” lacks inclusion and is meaningless.
As leaders, we must be mindful of how we engage other members of our organization, and must pay close attention to how biases manifest themselves, both as individuals and within groups. To be inclusive, leaders must give everyone in our organizations a voice. Although diversity, equity and inclusion are inherently related, they are also distinct concepts. When leaders buy into these concepts, the benefits of inclusive leadership will not only be felt by the organization, but by each and every employee that makes up the organizational community. When leaders embed care into organizational culture and competency, the organization’s unique definition of diversity, equity and inclusion is allowed to become a positive tenet of the workplace’s culture. Diversity, equity and inclusion is one way your organization can strategically position itself to have a competitive advantage and how your core values and mission come to life.
Inclusive leadership elevates equity, activates diversity and creates a culture that leads with inclusion. As we process the recent acts of violence and hate, be mindful as leaders and organizations to consider the following key strategies:
- Anticipate valued contributions of our differences, while acknowledging our biases
- Focus on our strengths
- Foster cultures for “best selves” to flourish
- Invest in strategic DE&I best practices
- Rewrite the script
- Mobilize DE&I resources in sustainable ways
- Ask yourself…what specific actions can I take to foster inclusive leadership?
Perhaps most of all, always be mindful of diversity, equity, inclusion and its relationship to leadership … after all, it matters.