Inclusive leadership—today’s most pressing business imperative
What makes a good leader? While answers to this question will vary depending on who is asking and who is answering the question, often times we will find articles and think pieces which include a list of similar “leadership” qualities—self-motivated, risk-taker, innovator, performs well under pressure, strategic thinker, and so on. But how often do we describe effective leaders as empathic, curious, advocates for social justice, equitable, accountable, or knowledgeable on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion? And why is it that we don’t often consider these as necessary qualities for today’s most competitive business leaders?
Inclusive leadership—not just for nonprofit leaders
Often times, many inclusive leadership skills are considered as “soft skills” which are only necessary for those working in the nonprofit sector and for professionals in roles related to corporate social responsibility and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This is a disadvantageous assumption. More and more organizations are beginning to recognize the importance of inclusive leadership and are fostering skills that allow leaders to address diversity, equity, and inclusion challenges faced by their organizations. It is imperative for today’s leaders to be responsive to increased demands for racial equity. As leaders think about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, they must understand how their organizations both impact and are influenced by social systems. Only with a firm grasp of this context can leaders make decisions that enable their organizations, and the broader city, to thrive.
The Harvard Business Review recently noted that, “Inclusive leadership is a critical capability to leverage diverse thinking in a workforce with increasingly diverse markets, customers, and talent. We have previously observed that only one in three leaders holds an accurate view about their inclusive leadership capabilities. A third believe they are more inclusive than they are actually perceived by those around them to be, while a third lack confidence in their inclusive leadership capability and so do less than they could to actively guide others and challenge the status quo.”
While Forbes highlights the importance of inclusive leadership by defining it as “listening to and understanding the needs of the broadest group of people in order to create the broadest, most engaged group of followers.”
Investing in your employee’s inclusive leadership skills means investing in your company’s success
There are several benefits to sponsoring employee participation in cohort-based inclusive leadership programs, such as YW Boston’s LeadBoston, including
- Being able to respond to changing market and city demographics
- Becoming better equipped with skills needed to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organization
- Strengthening the ability to understand stakeholders’ needs, solve challenging problems, and make better business decisions
- Broadening organizational access to key leaders, institutions, and professional contacts via the powerful LeadBoston network
- Rewarding high-potential employees and preparing them for greater leadership responsibilities
- Increasing employee engagement and loyalty.
In fact, research conducted by the Harvard Business Review shows that inclusiveness directly enhances performance. Teams with inclusive leaders are
- 17% more likely to report that they are high performing
- 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions
- 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively
- And report that a 10% improvement in perceptions of inclusion increases work attendance by almost 1 day a year per employee, reducing the cost of absenteeism.
What do LeadBoston participants say?
“LeadBoston is the ideal opportunity for development and connection with the Boston community that most professionals aren’t able to receive.”
Gary Morton, LeadBoston Class of 2010
Director, Give with Liberty Program, Liberty Mutual Insurance
“We increasingly understand as leaders that we have to take perspectives of all of the people that we are connected to into account. That sounds easy to do, but LeadBoston trains you to do that. I think to be an effective leader of an organization in today’s environment, you better be thinking about equity and inclusion because if you’re not, you are going to be left in the dust. The members and lawyers who go through the LeadBoston program come back to the firm with a much better perspective, not only on the city, but on how to operate within the firm. And that’s only going to be good for [the firm].”
Kevin McCall, LeadBoston Class of 1994
President & CEO of Paradigm Properties and Founder of Building Impact
It is imperative for today’s leaders to be responsive to increased demands for racial equity. As leaders think about diversity, equity, and inclusion, they must understand how their organizations both impact and are influenced by systems. Only with a firm grasp of this context can leaders make decisions that enable their organizations, and the broader city, to thrive.
Is your organization ready to empower more inclusive leaders and join LeadBoston?
LeadBoston meets organizations’ demand for more inclusive leadership by equipping mid- to senior-level professionals with the knowledge, skills, and network to propel their leadership, and their organization’s success, forward. Applications for the LeadBoston Class of 2021 are open through early November 2020. Reach out to Rachael McCoy (firstname.lastname@example.org), LeadBoston Manager, with any further questions about LeadBoston.