The End of "Inclusive Leadership"
We are in unprecedented times, and I've been thinking a lot about how things are changing as we move into the future. We've not been in a crisis like this during our modern lifetimes, so we have no foundation on which to base future outcomes. We are truly in a place where we can create what we want and envision a new normal. Now is the time to break down old systems, barriers, and ways of doing things. One of those things that I've been thinking about a lot is the idea of "inclusive leadership."
I'll be the first to admit that I jumped on the bandwagon of "inclusive leadership." I thought it was a great idea. After all, we were finally calling inclusion out as a necessary leadership skill! I named myself the Inclusive Leadership Coach™ and started an Alexa Flash Briefing. The more I think about it, though, the more I don't think the term "inclusive leadership" is such a great idea.
The term "inclusive leadership" creates separation. When we call it out like this, it implies there are "inclusive leaders" and "non-inclusive leaders."
Truth is, everything comes down to is this: If you're a leader, you're inclusive. If you're not inclusive, you're not a leader.
It's really that simple.
Recognize the importance of bringing together people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to create better products and services for, and deeper connections to, clients and customers;
Create spaces where people feel included and appreciated for those perspectives and feel like they belong; and
Manage the conflict that inevitably comes along with putting together groups of different people, and redirect the conflict to get more creative and innovative solutions.
We don't differentiate "fiscally sound leadership" or "decisive leadership" as fields of study. We just call those things "Leadership Competencies." If a person wasn't fiscally sound or decisive, they wouldn't be a leader. The same should be said for inclusion. Rather than differentiating "inclusive" and "non-inclusive" leaders, it's time we address overall leadership competencies and how we 1) evaluate who is ready for leadership, and 2) determine who is a "good leader."
Moving forward, I am going to talk about "leaders who are inclusive" and ban the term "inclusive leadership" from my vocabulary. That may sound like semantics to some. However, as D&I professionals, we're constantly advising people to "get D&I integrated into everything." Rather than carving out a separate brand of leadership, talking about "leaders who are inclusive" integrates inclusion into leadership. It removes any sense of exclusivity and the inevitable, "What's that?" I often hear when referring to "Inclusive Leadership." It makes inclusion a natural and expected part of leadership.
After all, isn't that the goal?