Empower Change: The 6 Cs of Inclusive Leadership

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There are an estimated 333 million businesses worldwide, meaning 333 million opportunities to work with people from a wide range of backgrounds. Additionally, millennials are now finding themselves in management roles, and many are leading teams with a blend of career-end professionals and green newbies.

These two facts highlight the growing need for inclusive leadership. Managers must communicate with globalized teams, coordinate employees of all ages, and establish relationships with individuals from all walks of life. 

The best and most inclusive leaders share six traits that create a culture of inclusion, foster a sense of belonging, improve cross-cultural interactions, and promote healthier employee well-being. Here’s a deeper look at the six Cs of inclusive leadership and how you can teach your leaders to embody them. 

C1: Compassion – The Heart of Leadership

While we are all humans and thus have a fair degree of similarities at a fundamental level, significant cultural differences still create misunderstanding. An inclusive leader is in tune with these differences and takes strides to make those from unique backgrounds feel welcomed and valued. 

Inclusive leaders with a strong affinity for compassion can seamlessly adjust their verbal and non-verbal behaviors to match those they’re working with. This inclusive capability strengthens team cohesion and sets the standard for how everyone should interact with each other.  

Compassionate leaders also reject cultural stereotypes by vocally supporting inclusive language and individual identities. You can even train your teams to be more empathetic with competency awareness or sensitivity training

C2: Curiosity – A Gateway to Learning

An open mindset and a strong desire to learn how others experience the world enriches the lives of inclusive leaders, giving them new ways of adapting to challenges. Curiosity is a personal value of Inclusive leaders, who use it as a way to challenge their own biases, blind spots, and outdated assumptions, allowing them to foster a workplace environment that prioritizes growth.

Learning about new cultures is empowering for inclusive leaders who use that knowledge to explore various solutions to roadblocks. Plus, valuing the inputs, diverse perspectives, and experiences of others opens the door for innovative products and services that show your organization is thinking of diverse groups, enhancing sales opportunities. 

C3: Courage – Boldly Leading Forward

Many organizations have an entrenched old guard resistant to change, but all it takes is one leader to act boldly in the face of the established status quo. It takes a healthy dose of courage to stand with underrepresented groups and serve as an ally, and once that courage showcases a leader invested in the well-being of their team members. 

A courageous leader is a role model for the change they want to see in the world. They confront microaggressions and unconscious biases, coaching others to shift their mentality and develop self-awareness, and self-regulation of their actions. Furthermore, these leaders aren’t afraid to tackle projects that boost the DEI initiatives of the organization, once again acting as a beacon for others to follow. 

C4: Communication – Building Bridges with Words

Companies need more global leaders than ever. With supply chains, satellite offices, and employees tracing all parts of the world, communication is a vital trait. However, inclusive leaders have additional awareness, allowing them to avoid verbal or nonverbal faux pas that can cast a negative shadow. 

Instead, inclusive leaders leverage their cultural intelligence and communication skills to build bridges between teams, regardless of where they operate. Here are a few techniques you can use to boost cross-cultural communication in your organization:

  • Maintain professional etiquette – Become knowledgeable about the etiquette of various cultures and keep content professional and friendly. 
  • Avoid slang or colloquial phrases – Non-native English speakers may miss the context behind these sayings, creating unnecessary friction. 
  • Practice active listening – Clarify potential misunderstandings by paraphrasing content and showing a commitment to the conversation. 
  • Take turns speaking – Relationship building is a long game, so invest the time in taking turns and avoid interrupting; it’s rude even in our culture. 
  • Encourage open-ended questions. Avoid “yes” or “no” questions to gain a deeper insight into others.
  • Be mindful of humor – Like slang, it can be easy to misunderstand humor; many people can take offense or become embarrassed by some forms of humor. 
  • Be a supportive figure – Embody other inclusive leadership skills, like compassion and curiosity, to create an inclusive workplace. 

Another excellent way to show your commitment to cross-cultural communication is to learn simple phrases, greetings, and salutations in your client’s, employee’s, or business partner’s language. This small gesture can mean the world to those who are navigating work in a second language and their normal day-to-day responsibilities. 

C5: Commitment – The Determination to Make a Difference

Perhaps the most critical of the six signature traits of inclusive leadership is commitment. Long-term change doesn’t happen overnight, and leaders who abandon the cause too early also abandon the tangible benefits. 

Many unconscious biases and workplace norms arose from decades of systemic discrimination.   To dismantle that unwanted baggage, business leaders need to commit to making a difference by showing up as an example of inclusive leadership every day. 

Likewise, committed leaders introduce policies designed to make the business case to become more inclusive. For instance, an inclusive leader purchases a new applicant tracking system that produces blind resumes, creating cognizance of bias in stakeholders.

C6: Cultural Intelligence – Navigating Diversity with Insight

Cultural intelligence, like compassion, recognizes that other cultures have valid, insightful, and valuable viewpoints and perspectives. Inclusive leaders keep all cultures on equal footing, absorbing input and feedback from each one to improve workplace inclusion. 

The interconnectedness of inclusive leadership traits continues with cultural intelligence. The best leaders yearn to understand various cultures in great depth. They seek opportunities to practice effective collaboration with diverse-thinking teams and share that knowledge with others.  

Implementing the 6 C’s in Your Leadership Strategy

Of all the complicated SOPs, workflows, and other procedures in your organization, implementing the six C’s into your leadership strategies is one of the simplest. Here are a few strategies you can use, starting today, to improve inclusive leadership amongst your managers:

  1. Prioritize DEI initiatives and talk about their progress frequently. 
  2. Invest in organizational-level training to educate everyone in your organization. 
  3. Introduce diverse and inclusive hiring practices and policies. 
  4. Follow-up on progress through robust KPI and metrics reporting. 
  5. Foster leadership development with diversity coaching certificates.  

Adjusting to a new leadership style means taking a methodic and planned approach, and these handfuls of strategies give you an excellent starting point. However, an expert never hurts. Coach Diversity Institute can help guide you along your path to an inclusive culture in your company. 

Leading with Inclusion Starts with Coach Diversity

These six traits of inclusive leadership are paramount to building the workforce of the future. Leaders endowed with these characteristics make it easy for employees from underrepresented groups to share their input, which boosts productivity and enhances the decision-making process. 

While naturally occurring inclusive leaders are few and far between, you can train your current leaders to take an inclusive stand by enrolling them in diversity training through Coach Diversity Institute. 

Coach Diversity Institute has a range of programs designed to support human resource, social work, and management consulting professionals to make a lasting difference in the DEI efforts of businesses everywhere. Reach out today to get enrolled in one of these life-changing programs!