Creating an inclusive culture starts at the top: how senior leaders act sets the standard across your organization. What are the key leadership behaviors to role model? Discover our 5-part DE&I Leadership Model, developed through in-depth work with senior leadership at complex organizations.
Creating inclusion starts with seeing where aspects of daily business practice or broader cyclical processes exclude diversity of thought and/or underrepresented or marginalized colleagues. By building leadership awareness of different ways non-inclusive behaviors and processes show up, leadership can take steps to create and maintain inclusive environments. Doing this well takes a learner mindset and a commitment to regularly take time to connect with individuals up and down the organization.
Leadership buy-in and commitment to the idea and realization of an inclusive culture determines if it succeeds or not. Clear leadership ownership, accountability, and teamwork on inclusion can transform performance and wellbeing at the organization. To this end, optimal success happens when every single leader and manager at the organization is clear on their individual role, plan, and KPIs to develop an inclusive culture.
When leaders can talk effectively about inclusion and how it matters for the organization’s strategic goals, it builds trust and willingness to collaborate across the organization. Effective communication about inclusion includes the ability to manage challenging or angled questions, to engage with a variety of audiences on the topic, and to maintain authenticity with each leader’s own leadership brand and reputation.
Leadership sets the standard for the organization and its culture, in particular the quality of unity, debate, and performance within the executive leadership team itself. Leaders who treat others with respect and fairness period and regardless of their personal characteristics or social attributes embody what it means to be inclusive. Recognizing and valuing colleagues and their contributions in this way builds trust and creates sense of belonging across the workforce.
Building a sustainable inclusive culture requires that leaders are willing and able to challenge and address non-inclusive behaviors and processes. When non-inclusive behaviors happen in-the-moment, leaders need to be able to challenge them in a way that doesn’t shame, talk down to, or alienate any of the stakeholders involved. Leaders who make the time to facilitate key conversations, give a fair hearing to the different perspectives involved, and hold people to account when needed, build respect and understanding between colleagues. For significant or ongoing instances of non-inclusive behavior or processes, leaders who advocate for and sponsor initiatives that deliver greater inclusion are critical to embedding inclusiveness in the way an organization works.
The five DE&I Leadership behaviors help create and embed an inclusive culture. To ensure their success, it requires a CEO and Board who are invested in its success - ensuring that from the top of the organization right through its workforce, inclusive behavior and processes are treated in the same manner to how the organization incentivizes and rewards other critical success factors and performance indicators.