Heather Price, CEO at Symmetra, discusses why inclusive leadership is so critical today.
When you talk about diversity, we’re talking about all the differences that people bring to the table. We’re talking about inherent differences. Those are the differences you’re born with like your age, your gender, or ethnicity. And then we’re talking about acquired differences. Things like your personality style, your socioeconomic status, your education, your industry experience and career path. All of these are what we are referring to when we talk about diversity, and inclusion is when we’re referring to the glue that helps those differences stick together.
In the last few years there’s been a host of empirical research that has emerged which has demonstrated that diverse teams outperform homogenous teams, and that more importantly, you can use inclusion to drive business growth, performance and innovation.
The whole mark of an inclusive organisation is one where people feel a very strong sense of belonging and commitment. Where people actually feel that their voice is heard and that you are accessing their full intellectual capital. And what’s the key to achieving that? The key to achieving that is leadership. Leaders, as we know, cast a very long shadow over the culture of an organisation, and if people want to feel that their voice is heard and their full intellectual capital is being utilised, then you need to build the skills to lead them in an inclusive manner.
We need to understand that today, effective leadership in the 21st century is inclusive leadership. We need leaders who know how to leverage diversity of thought, so that they can optimise performance and innovation. We need leaders who know how to counteract unconscious bias so they don’t allow their bias to stand in the way of giving credibility to the ideas of people who are diverse from them. We need leaders who can embed psychological safety. In other words, make it safe for people to express their divergent views. Pushback, disagree, experiment with unproven actions. That’s what inclusion means in the 21st century, and that is the critical enabler.