When we consider what lies at the heart of inclusivity, it is about establishing healthy relationships that bear hallmarks of respect and acceptance, in an empowering environment.
To achieve inclusive leadership, we need to be ever mindful of this core factor while knowing there can be nothing artificial within our endeavours. Embracing key principles, associated with inclusive leadership, will help us grow and flourish in this area of our lives.
The first step towards being an inclusive leader, or any leader for that matter, is developing a passion for getting to really know people. We could term it a leadership principle of “seeing” others clearly. This is not at a superficial level. It is a deep abiding interest in what really makes them who they are as unique and special beings.
This involves having the ability to not only share ourselves but also getting others to share themselves with us in a mutually rewarding way. It is a very conscious step that fundamentally speaks to what inclusive leadership is—the ability to see people clearly with full acceptance, lack of judgement, and a mature affirming orientation.
This involves a process of ever-increasing bonding and caring for others. Over time, the relationship expands and there is a real sense of mutual ownership for its sustainability. Once we have broadened and deepened relationships, we are naturally more uncompromisingly committed and begin to advocate for others as their leader.
The closeness that evolves within the relationship not only leads to a knowledge that the inclusive leader has our back, but also that they see us as belonging within the relationship as it straddles time.
The next step often addressed in inclusive leadership training is the necessity for a leadership style of participation. We need to, however, grasp the underlying principle of “sharing”; most especially of experiences. Inclusive leaders must take the task of always evolving everyone, as far as possible, very seriously.
Most importantly, this must be in things that have the potential to affect them both directly and indirectly. Creating varied opportunities for shared experience, also of the unknown within a circle of trust makes full participation less daunting. The more we allow exposure and insight into a variety of worlds, the more comfort and familiarity grow.
Ultimately, participation and sharing break down barriers and inhibitions. This allows people to explore and expose their true selves knowing that there is space to offer different views, perspectives, and ways of being that will be valued and recognized as valid.
A third step to focus on, in striving towards inclusive leadership, is the establishment of a collaborative culture. Strangely this necessitates that inclusive leaders subscribe strongly to the principle of “accountability”.
The reason is that when everyone contributes and these contributions are valued, they result in joint decision-making and choices, with resultant combined ownership. It is no longer possible to stand on the fringes without being counted as part of the group or team. When we find we are in things together, this strengthens what we have in common rather than magnifying how we are different.
Everyone must support each other and do their bit to produce agreed results. Collaboration stretches us all in terms of how we solve and surmount problems and obstacles together. Collaboration allows us to recognize the merits of a healthy balancing of the mix of acknowledged independence with necessary interdependency.
Inclusive leadership training would also not be complete without dealing with the further issues of transparency. This underscores the principle of “honesty” as integral to inclusive leadership. Honesty allows us to speak openly about the human condition.
It allows inclusive leaders to reveal their vulnerabilities and strengths, as well as accept where they are in their journey towards transformation as inclusive leaders. This opens the door for others to accept that the transition may not be easy or even feel natural at times. The willingness to be humble and open to learning is paramount.
Honesty allows everyone a level of freedom that creates space for new and better relationships to be formulated with less recrimination and fear. As inclusive leaders, we need to be role models. Without showing ourselves transparently, we can never show up for others authentically. To achieve reciprocation in relationships and move towards enhanced intimacy, honesty must be the foundation.
The fifth step to establishing inclusive leadership is grappling with the lifelong need for change and development. To allow this to become a reality, the principle of “awareness” must be embraced. This is not only relevant to leaders but is also something that must be encouraged among everyone.
Without awareness, we will miss the need to expand as people. Increased focus on awareness leads to an emphasis on listening, receiving feedback constructively, attempting to understand, and suspending automatic reactions and perceptions. It is key to gaining new insights and allowing us to spot new opportunities.
Awareness opens the door to our motivation to change and do better. It is the gateway to an enhanced vision of what might be possible.
As inclusive leaders practise these principles, they will strengthen and become an inherent part of our makeup. They will also be the bedrock that others can rely on for their liberation and peace of mind.