How To be An Inclusive Leader From The Inside Out
By Simma Lieberman
Thursday, 28th September 2023

Is This Familiar? Have you ever found yourself wanting to tune out when leaders start discussing the concept of inclusive leadership? You’re not alone.

It’s a common reaction, especially when you notice employees rolling their eyes or sharing knowing glances, expressing their feelings of being overlooked or undervalued.

It’s not uncommon for someone to attend countless workshops on inclusive leadership, return to the workplace armed with certificates and tools, yet still struggle to implement what they’ve learned.

The result? A continuation of favoritism and a lack of change. This scenario is so prevalent that many employees have come to view ‘inclusion’ and ‘inclusive leadership’ as mere buzzwords.

Inclusive Leadership Mindset

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Inclusive leadership can be more than just a superficial catchphrase. It can become a reality when it’s approached from an ‘inside-out’ perspective, leading to the practice of ‘inclusive leadership intelligence’.

Inclusive leadership from the inside out is about an internal transformation, a shift in mindset and perspective.

It’s about developing empathy for those you lead, understanding their needs, and fostering an environment where everyone feels welcome and included.

Successful inclusive leadership requires self-reflection, stepping out of your comfort zone, and challenging your biases. It’s not an easy path, but it’s a rewarding one.

Five Steps to Become an Inside-Out Inclusive Leader

Everyone wants to feel like they belong, especially in these challenging times as we navigate the aftermath of a global pandemic. The need for inclusion has never been greater. It’s crucial to build relationships and work effectively with people across all dimensions of diversity - race, gender, age, and more.

When you lead with empathy and understanding, your team will feel safe and inspired to do their best work. But how do you become an inclusive leader from the inside out? Here are some steps to start your transformation:

  • Self-reflection: Reflect on your experiences of inclusion and exclusion. How have these feelings impacted your work and participation? Allow yourself to truly feel these emotions.
  • Step outside of you: Don’t assume that what makes you feel included or excluded is the same for everyone else. Ask your employees about their experiences in informal discussions. Be curious and open to their responses.
  • Reflect on the past: Consider how your assumptions and actions towards people who are different from you may have made them feel excluded or trivialized.
  • Reflect even deeper: Identify instances where you may have unconsciously excluded others or lacked empathy. Try to understand how those employees felt and how it may have impacted their work.
  • Widen your circle: What realizations do you now have? What will you do differently? How has your thinking changed? Use the empathy and understanding you’ve gained to take the right actions.

Simma Lieberman
Diversity, Inclusion, and Culture Change Consultant

Simma Lieberman is internationally known as “The Inclusionist,” because she creates inclusive workplaces where employees love to do their best work, and customers love to do business.


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