Deloitte’s IWD (International Women’s Day) 2013 one piqued my interest. The subject was ‘Inclusive Leadership as the missing link for advancing women’ and it got me thinking… Is ‘Inclusive Leadership’ just another buzzword and why, if it really is something new, would it make a difference to the advancement of women?
While there was a lot of interesting discussion and some good points made by the panel, the questions and responses didn’t really identify or highlight anything I hadn’t already seen or experienced. As the webcast progressed it seemed Inclusive Leadership was another way of giving a label to the behaviours leaders ought, in my mind, to be exhibiting anyway. Then finally the last question came – What is the definition of Inclusive Leadership?
The responses struck a chord and I noted some key points that were offered up:
- Recognising differences and realising full potential
- Being open to and valuing different perspectives
- Valuing what each person brings to the team and using that well
- Recognising biases and being conscious of thought and deed
- Equality and fairness
But it was Esther Silver-Parker, President and CEO, The Silver-Parker Group, USA who’s response was a piece of pure gold. To paraphrase:
It must be part of a Company’s DNA, it’s not a program or one-off initiative.
As soon as I heard it I thought ‘Yes!’ The way Esther phrased it was perfect. Not just for Inclusive Leadership as the missing link for advancing women but for organisational change initiatives in general and how Companies should think when triggering them. If human DNA is the genetic makeup we’ve inherited from our parents an organisations DNA is the genetic makeup inherited from its leaders. Whatever behaviours the leaders exhibit be they dictatorial or collaborative, bureaucratic or delegated, disengaged or inclusive etc, those behaviours and the way they influence and guide human interaction will permeate throughout the organisation shaping its culture and informing how it does what it does; it’s DNA.
Therefore if those in charge want the organisation to change they need to take a close look at its DNA before kicking something off and moving swiftly on to the next initiative.
However people are people and no two are alike. There are many at all levels perfectly happy, thanks very much, with the status quo. There will however be those who naturally swim against the tide or are tactically brought in to do so. Some may achieve great success in their area and go on to influence others. Some may move on quickly as their efforts are thwarted or they’re sucked into the modus operandi. Without those at the top of the organisational hierarchy actually changing their own behaviours and proving that change visibly to the rest of the business, the fundamental DNA of an organisation won’t shift. Inclusive Leadership for the advancement of women will remain a buzzword or one-off initiative that fizzes out over time or is replaced by the next craze.
An organisations' DNA will not change just by talking about it or through the heroic efforts of individuals. Senior leaders have a responsibility. They cannot continue merrily ahead and expect those further down the hierarchy to shoulder all the responsibility and do all the work. They must take action. Action that’s real, tangible where they are conscious of thought, deed and full of integrity because, as we know, change happens through action.