The Necessity Of Consciously Inclusive Leadership

posted on August 4, 2020

July 27, 2020

By Jonathan H. Westover, Forbes

In previous articles, I discussed the value of diversity in the workplace and the importance of creating a workplace culture of belonging, diversity and inclusivity. More inclusive organizations are better able to attract and retain talent, experience greater customer loyalty, have greater productivity and are more innovative. For these reasons alone (and the fact that it is the morally right thing to do), leaders should have a laser focus on promoting greater inclusivity within their organizations.

I believe we also need to develop our leadership skills around inclusivity. So why are inclusive leaders good for organizations?

A recent Harvard Business Review article explores this question: “Simply throwing a mix of people together doesn’t guarantee high performance; it requires inclusive leadership — leadership that assures that all team members feel they are treated respectfully and fairly, are valued and sense that they belong, and are confident and inspired.”

But how do we become more inclusive leaders?

The Challenge Of Successful Unconscious Bias Training

Years ago, I was sitting in a leadership meeting when my boss announced that we were going to have unconscious bias training. There were probably a couple dozen of us in the room, and there were a lot of eye rolls, moans and groans, and other expressions of discomfort and annoyance. While I was excited about the training, it appeared that the vast majority of my colleagues weren’t. In fact, as the training progressed, I witnessed active resistance from many of my colleagues, who simply were not having any of it and didn’t want to hear about their privilege, their microaggressions and their unconscious biases. A couple of individuals even vocally objected and said that they felt personally attacked by the presenter.

Their thinking was that if their biases and prejudices were unconscious, there was nothing they could do about them, so why even try?

Overall, this training was not effective and probably caused more harm than good. It aggravated my colleagues, caused most of them to put up walls and resulted in their re-entrenchment to outdated and harmful perspectives. Of course, unconscious bias training done well can have better outcomes, but the point is that it is easier said than done.

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