Each of us is actually a leader within the ambit of our own lives. We are in charge of our destinies. Some of us simply have the ability to broaden this circle of influence to others, context dependent, especially in the workplace.
When we ask the question, ‘what is inclusive leadership?’ it is important to understand there is a strong correlation between how leadership works and how love works. Fittingly many would refer to leadership as a labour of love!
There are no shortcuts, magic wands or simple recipes. Like any relationship, inclusive leadership commences as a journey. The starting point is one of genuine passion. A passion for people in all their glorious uniqueness and potential. Without this fundamental orientation, of genuine caring and acceptance of the diversity inherent in others, closeness can never be properly established and maintained.
These hallmarks of inclusive leadership, combined with the resultant psychological safety created, produce the space for complimentary individual progression so that people can become their best selves. An unconditional commitment to the truth is what differentiates inclusive leadership from many other forms of leadership. Truthfulness with the self, truthfulness with the other and honesty of intent.
Taking the High Road
As in love, fundamentally the purpose of inclusive leadership is always to serve the best interests of the other and safeguard their present and future. This is indeed a challenge. To ascend the heights of successful inclusive leadership will demand courage, persistence and learning.
We ought to remember that courage refers to our willingness to take risks and move ahead in the presence of difficulties. Included in a promise to stand by the principles of inclusive leadership is an assurance that one will find the ongoing psychological strength to confront and work through problems including deep-seated fears and prejudices. There will be periods of great instability and uncertainty in pursuit of the goal of psychological safety within the relationship. This is not a prize won overnight.
To overcome obstacles inherent in achieving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the inclusive leader will need to deal with potential loss, social disapproval, anger, rejection, ethical dilemmas etc. The list goes on. It is therefore critical that persistence in pursuit of the vision circumvents any fears of failure particularly in periods of chaos, trauma or disruption when setbacks inevitably occur.
Inclusive leaders will need to not only bring their intellect to bear on the journey, but will be called upon to follow their hearts and intuition in navigating the many twists and turns that building enduring meaningful relationships demand.
Persevering in the face of adversity is an active choice that the inclusive leader must make almost daily to strengthen and unify. The mainstay is a profound belief in standing up for what is right and honorable.
This is a journey of coming to respect and treasure that which the other values, wants and needs. What we learn, as we journey towards fully fledged inclusive leadership is that our job is not that of controlling, but rather supporting individual freedom. Freedom to allow ourselves and others to soar to their greatest heights.