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The next time someone infers that you are not a leader, think twice before responding. Some people are ‘positional leaders’ by virtue of their titles; others are ‘non-positional’ leaders who find a gap and take action. They don’t wait for a title; they take a leap and lead!
In May, I was invited by the Regional Diversity Roundtable to speak to participants in their Community Leadership Program (CLP). The topic was Leadership Model: Vision for Inclusion & Diversity. Below I share some notes from my presentation.
A McKinsey report states that, “Awareness of the business case for inclusion and diversity is on the rise. While social justice typically is the initial impetus behind these efforts, companies have increasingly begun to regard inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage, and specifically as a key enabler of growth.”
As the topic takes centre stage, some companies have issued performative statements indicating what they hope to do to make sure all their employees have a chance, not only to sit at the table, but to contribute, to feel a sense of belonging, and to thrive.
Considering the current social and economic upheavals, the topic for the presentation was quite timely.
One of the sources I consulted for my presentation was a report from Deloitte University Press titled “The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership – Thriving in a Diverse New World”. This report is aimed primarily at individuals in the upper echelons of organizations to help them rethink the traditional notions of leadership. However, these traits are not only meant for these ‘positional’ leaders; ‘non-positional’ leaders also need to develop these traits.
Difference Between Positional and Non-Positional Leadership
Positional Leadership operates from the traditional understanding of hierarchy; people who possess ‘positional power’ because of their titles (CEO, director, manager). Non-Positional Leadership is not constrained by a title; it emanates from people who are able to impact, influence and inspire others to action.
Below I have highlighted the six traits from the Deloitte report. It’s important to note that there is nothing in these traits that suggest one has to have a title to be an inclusive leader. “Lead from where you are”, I told the participants. “No one has to tap you on the shoulder and anoint you a leader. Leadership is noticing the gap and stepping in to do something about it.”
Trait 1: Commitment – Highly inclusive leaders are committed to diversity and inclusion because these objectives align with their personal values and because they believe in the business case.
Inclusiveness requires a commitment to making things better, and that’s done by ensuring fairness and equality of opportunities.
Trait 2: Courage – Highly inclusive leaders speak up and challenge the status quo, and they are humble about their strengths and weaknesses.
“The courage to speak up – to challenge others and the status quo – is a central behaviour of an inclusive leader, and it occurs at three levels: with others, with the system and with themselves.” (Pg. 10). Sometimes self-preservation prevents us from ‘ruffling feathers’ but there are times when we find ourselves in situations that require us to demonstrate courage in speaking up and challenging the status quo.
Trait 3: Cognizance of Bias – Highly inclusive leaders are mindful of personal and organizational blind spots, and self-regulate to help ensure “fair play.”
Everyone of us has some form of bias – conscious and unconscious. As such, we are naturally inclined to lean toward self-cloning and self-interest, but this can be mitigated if we identify and confront our own biases, self-regulate and adhere to existing policies, processes and structures.
Trait 4: Curiosity – Highly inclusive leaders have an open mindset, a desire to understand how others view and experience the world, and a tolerance for ambiguity.
Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO of Dell said “…with curiosity comes learning and new ideas…If you’re not curious you’re not learning.” Inclusive leaders know their limitations, and are open-minded; they engage in curious questioning; they listen, empathize, suspend judgement, and entertain other viewpoints. Curiosity helps us learn and grow.
Trait 5: Culturally Intelligent – Highly inclusive leaders are confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions.
When it comes to cultural intelligence, all of us need to recognize that our own culture determines our worldview, and that view can influence our expectations of others. It is important, therefore, that we deepen our cultural understanding and learn from the experiences of others.
Trait 6: Collaborative: Highly inclusive leaders empower individuals as well as create and leverage the thinking of diverse groups.
Cultural diversity is a huge economic advantage and leaders should always be looking at ways to be more inclusive. One way is to ensure that when people collaborate, group members don’t all look and think alike. Groups benefit from people with different ideas, perspectives and experiences.
During the webinar, one program participant asked if she would be considered a leader if she didn’t have followers or a title. I told her that leadership is based on how one acts, not by a title. John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Based on the foregoing, it is obvious that inclusive leaders do not always have titles. Inclusive leaders, as the Deloitte report states:
- Treat people and groups fairly based on their unique characteristics, not on stereotypes.
- Understand and value the uniqueness of each person and accept them as members of the group.
- Leverage the diversity of thoughts that lead to good decision-making.
- Inspire confidence. When people feel that they ‘belong’ and that they have a voice in decision-making, it makes a difference.
There you have it! You do not need a title to be an inclusive leader. You can lead from where you are. Take a leap and lead!
Book: How to Be An Inclusive Leader, Jennifer Brown