Five tips on how to be a truly inclusive leader

Five tips on how to be a truly inclusive leader

“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.”

BY Business Chicks, 8 min READ

“Diversity and inclusion is not a stand-alone function. In fact, it should be embedded in everything we do.” – Fadzi Whande

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is not only important for a successful business – it’s fundamental. Achieved best through cognitive diversity that yields varied views, thoughts and opinions, a diverse workplace is much more than something done to simply tick the box. Fadzi Whande, Global Diversity & Inclusion Strategist, presented a Masterclass Online on “How to be a More Inclusive Leader”, and walked us through all the in’s and out’s of diversity and inclusion. Here are our top five takeaways and tips on how you can be a truly inclusive leader:

1. Know the difference between diversity and inclusion

The first step in becoming a more inclusive leader who supports diversity is understanding the difference between the two terms. “Diversity by definition is really about difference. You can have diversity in any room or situation you’re in,” Fadzi explained. “There is always diversity and we have no control over it.”

This isn’t to say that you can’t promote a diverse workplace, it means that the things which make a person diverse are often beyond their control like their age, gender, sex and ethnicity. What needs more focus is inclusion because no matter how diverse a room is, if those voices aren’t heard it defeats the purpose. “We need to focus on which voices are missing and which groups are missing,” Fadzi continues. “Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.”

This is important for leaders to understand because diversity and inclusion can boosts organisational culture, financial performance, employee and team productivity, and diversity of thought and innovation. Fadzi recounted an article where the cost of exclusion for American companies was listed at 14 trillion dollars, explaining that “the cost of not having a diverse and inclusive organisation or community, is actually far more than what it costs for the benefits.”

2. Figure out what your core and flex topics are

Understanding yourself and the things you are flexible and non-negotiable on are important when talking about diversity and inclusion as a leader. Core things are those non-negotiables. “As a leader it is beyond your values and convictions, it speaks to your behaviours,” Fadzi says. “Aspects that are not transferrable and uncompromisable regardless of the people you’re with or country you’re in.”

Where as your flex topics are those things that are part of you, depending on the situation and person. For Fadzi, for example, diversity is flex as she is ok in situations where she is the only woman of colour or only woman at all, even though she doesn’t necessarily like it. But one of her cores is inclusion, as she believes in always trying to create inclusive spaces. Having an understanding of what these topics are for you will help you make the necessary decisions in creating this diverse and inclusive environment for your employees.

3. Find out more than just the tip of the iceberg

Just like icebergs where only 10% is visible, so is diversity. When it comes to a person, the understood aspects of diversity are those physical attributes we can see like age and ethnicity. The other 90%, the stuff that sits underneath the surface, is inclusion. The 90% is the core of who a person is as an individual. Fadzi explains that “if we want to be inclusive leaders, we have to set aside time to understand the people that are around us so we can starting thinking about cognitive diversity.”

Cognitive diversity gets us thinking about the benefits of different thinking styles, different perspectives, and different views. However, as Fadzi explains, “you can’t have cognitive diversity without having demographic diversity.” When we talk about demographic diversity we need to recognise a sum of different things and not just one aspect.

Fadzi provided the example of an all-male panel which would appear to lack diversity but fails to take into account the invisible things we might not see, like their marital and socio-economic statuses. This is why intersectionality is important because it is the notion that one person can present many different factors. According to Fadzi, by focusing on only one aspect of a person, “we end up creating a hierarchy in diversity where we make people feel that one aspect of diversity is more important than another.”

4. We all have unconscious bias, you just need to manage it

It would be foolish to think that anyone is without judgement. While non-intentional, Fadzi explains that “unconscious bias is like a reflex, it’s just not something that we talk about.” These unconscious biases can occur in the workplace without you even realising, usually in situations where you find yourself vulnerable or stressed. For example, affinity bias is when you favour people similar to yourself like women or those of the same ethnicity as you.

While not aggressive forms of bias, they still commonly occur in the workplace so it’s important to address these unconscious biases before they happen. Fadzi recommends the PAUSE method. This requires you to “pay attention to things that are around you, acknowledge and identify what your reactions are, understand that another person may have a different viewpoint, search for how to address the situation and execute an action plan and be a person of your word.”

5. Understand that intent and impact are different

Everyone has been in a situation where we’ve heard someone say, “I’m so sorry, that wasn’t my intention!” But sometimes good intentions are not enough. Fadzi explains that “we often judge ourselves by our intent but judge others on their impact.”

As an inclusive leader you have to be considerate of both your intent and impact of your words and behaviours on other people. You need to think about how your intentions, which may not seem negative to you, impact the people in your office with different views and perspectives. “Inclusive leadership is all about being aware of your bias, preferences and seeking out different views and perspectives,” Fadzi says. “There has to be some intent if you want to be an inclusive leader. It doesn’t happen automatically, it requires intention on your side.”


Masterclass Online is FREE for Premium members and Masterclass Pass holders. Check out our upcoming schedule here.


©2020 Business Chicks

Log in

Forgot your password?