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How to Effectively Lead Across Difference | 6 Takeaways on Leading Inclusively with Kwame Jackson

May 28, 2019 Rachael Marangu

How can we lead across difference and move toward true inclusion in the workplace? How can we manage effectively across generational, ethnic, racial, gender, or other identity lines?

We addressed these questions during a special Linkage Leadership Webinar, which I co-hosted with entrepreneur and political commentator Kwame Jackson. During this webinar we shed light on how leaders can mitigate bias and move toward true inclusion in the workplace.

It was a great conversation–and I wanted to share six of the most impactful takeaways from the webinar with you.

Interested in exploring a step further? Click to download the recording.

For now, let’s dive into the takeaways:

The need for Purposeful Leadership is urgent–and it’s our responsibility to lead with purpose.

We live in a fractured world–politically and socially. As Kwame explained, it’s almost as if we’re living on two different planets. Because of this, the ability to lead across difference is more urgent and vital than ever. And, the need for Purposeful Leadership has never been more pressing.

The best organizations value each employee’s uniqueness–while making them feel valued and part of the team.

There are two fundamental human needs and we need to feel them both simultaneously: We need to feel unique–and we need to feel that we belong. The optimal organization can satisfy both needs, creating a true culture of inclusion.

Within organizations that don’t have this balance, there’s a low sense of uniqueness and a low sense of belonging. The message employees take away from that type of non-inclusive culture? You’re not welcome here and you definitely don’t fit in.

The best leaders understand the role bias plays in their own decision making–and their organization’s culture.

Bias is a general pattern or tendency to think a certain way that can lead to a positive or negative treatment of people, based on their membership in a group.

Biases come from societal messages and our own experiences related to background, beliefs, education, race, gender, religion, upbringing, etc. The problem is that these cognitive shortcuts affect our decision-making abilities and can have a destructive impact on our ability to lead.

Bottom line: Leaders must realize that bias cannot be hidden, and they have to call out bias when it arises.

We need to stop falling back on the same type of leadership.

91% of Fortune 500 CEOs are white men. 44 of 45 presidents have been white men. As Kwame explained, leadership doesn’t only come in one archetype–and yet, we continue to fall back on the same type of leadership time and time again.

And, Kwame made an important point: Even with the current diverse line-up of presidential candidates, the majority of the news coverage has been of the white, male candidates. We need to re-think our own internal “image” of a leader and make conscious efforts to diversify leadership at our organizations–and in our culture.

Challenge a culture of micro-inequality by modeling micro-affirmations.

Micro-inequities are seemingly small events that are often hard to prove–yet, they radically diminish and exclude members of our teams. As we work toward truly inclusive workplace cultures, all leaders should instead embrace micro-affirmations, subtle or apparently small acknowledgements of value and accomplishments. When leaders highlight diverse team members and voices publicly or privately, they begin to stamp out existing cultures of inequality, which are often marked by micro-inequalities.

Change starts with us.

What do we need to do differently as leaders? We must purposefully look at who we hire, promote, and who we give coveted “stretch” assignments to. We must pull from all of our talent to fill out our leadership ranks. Change is possible–and it starts with Purposeful Leadership.  

 We must empower leaders with the unique skill-set they need to manage effectively across generational, ethnic, racial, gender, or other identity lines.

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