• Kevin L. Long

10 Essential Inclusive Leadership Skills

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

In today's world of creating inclusive workplaces, it’s all about skills. It’s never been more challenging to be a leader than it is today. Markets and entire industries are changing rapidly. For any leader to be successful, it’s important to have the proper skills.

Many of these skills are evergreen. For example, leaders will always need to be able to communicate well and delegate tasks. Take heart that your leadership skills will be valuable for a long time!

Shore up these inclusive leadership skills and protect your future:

1. Cognizance - Great leaders are constantly evaluating themselves and their organizational processes checking for blind spots. Leaders understand that everyone has bias. They also understand that implicit or unconscious bias left unchecked can lead to toxic work cultures. Great leaders work diligently to mitigate these biases. (see Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People written by Dr. Mahzarin Banaji and Dr. Anthony Greenwald)

2. Communication & Collaboration skills - Leaders must be excellent communicators. This includes public speaking, addressing small groups, and one-on-one. Remember to practice good listening skills. Effective communication across cultures can be challenging at times. Inclusive leaders tap into their ability to empower and leverage the thinking of diverse groups.

3. Delegation skills - You can’t do it all alone. Many high-achievers have trouble letting go and giving up control. You must be able to trust others and use them in the most effective way possible. It’s not enough to just delegate, you must delegate assignments to the those who will excel in that particular task.

4. Commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion - Leaders must create a culture that matches the industry and the employees. A Wall Street investment bank has a different culture than an elementary school or a pharmaceutical company. Even departments may have their own unique culture. By establishing diversity goals for your workforce, ensuring your staff reflects the diversity of your customers and end users, and establishing regular DEI training, leaders can create an inclusive culture that says, "We see you and value you."

5. Adaptability - The challenges facing leaders change regularly. Industries change. Customers change. Economic conditions change. Technology is rapidly changing the way organizations do business. Leaders have to be able to evolve to meet the changing landscape.

6. Time management - Leaders are busy. There’s always more to do than there are hours in the day. Choosing the most important tasks and making the time to complete them is paramount. Time management skills are easily learned, but don’t come naturally to many people.

7. Relationship management - Great leaders have strong relationships with their direct reports, the hourly employees, executives, and customers. The stronger your relationships, the more you can accomplish. During great challenges, your relationships can make you or break you.

8. Courage - Leading an organization or department requires courage to speak up when issues arise that can be people/culture damaging. Developing relationships both vertical and horizontal in the organization gives a network of trusted individuals that will often share information that may necessitate that you call out inequities, microagressions, and/or microtriggers.

9. Be a good follower. Leaders have to follow, too. Leaders that don’t follow are considered dictators. Once you inspire a team, they become largely self-sufficient. It is then your job to follow and provide occasional guidance.

10. Cultural Intelligence. Leaders who are effective in speaking and engaging with people who are different that themselves gain valuable insight into the gifts and talents of others. Things like volunteering in diverse communities and immersing yourself in other cultures. This gives multiple advantages to the organization, the people you serve and career advancement.

How do your skills measure up? These skills will lead to a much more diverse and equitable culture and they identify you as an innovative, inclusive leader.

Build your skills and your results will be enhanced. Even with all the big changes in modern businesses, leadership skills continue to be highly valued in the workplace. Inclusive leaders are always in high demand.”

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