Your Guide to Inclusive Leadership

Simply put, inclusive leadership is more than just a nice-to-have. Topping the lists of priorities for many organizations, creating a workplace rooted in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEI&B) is linked to lasting positive outcomes, ranging from greater team productivity to unique creative thinking. 

And, with Generation Z bringing in the most diverse generation of professionals in history, organizations nationwide face a rapid need for engaged, inclusive leaders. 

With over 30 years of helping leaders stay up-to-date on current happenings and job market changes, we’ve outlined our top resources for inclusive leadership and creating flourishing workplace environments for all. Complete with insights from Adrienne Lucas, Global Head of DEI & Strategist Partnerships at The One Club for Creativity, and Katie Larson, Celarity’s Inclusive Connections leader & Recruiting Manager, this blog will have you ready to hit the ground running with inclusive leadership. 

What It Means To Be An Inclusive Leader

While leadership means something different to everyone, inclusive leadership involves creating environments where all feel welcomed, supported, and seen in their roles. Inclusive leaders go out of their way to ensure that all team members not only have a spot at the table but that they are heard at the table, too. 

As Katie explains: “From my experience, I have seen leaders standing out to be inclusive through striving to make their employees feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work. This is done through showing empathy and humility while also giving out recognition and prioritizing building relationships”.

Inclusive leaders are those that make others feel seen, regardless of their differences or identities. And, while every organizational structure is different, as a leader, you have a unique opportunity to create a workplace environment that recognizes, celebrates, and fosters diversity, making everyone feel like they have a place on your team.

How To Be An Inclusive Leader

Understanding what it means to lead inclusively and becoming an inclusive leader are two very different concepts. To help you along the journey of inclusive leadership, we’ve rounded up four actionable steps that Marketing, Creative, and Digital leaders of all industries can take within the workplace.

1. Become Aware Of Your Unconscious Biases

According to Asana, unconscious biases are mental shortcuts that influence our natural decision-making processes, whether we realize them or not. As a leader, becoming aware of unintentional thought processes is essential to inclusivity, fair hiring processes, and creating a diverse team. 

As Katie explains: “Inclusive leaders are aware that they have their own unconscious biases, and so they are continually trying to learn different perspectives to always be growing themselves.”

To begin your walk with continuous learning, we recommend Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test, which features a variety of common unconscious biases. By moving through a series of questions and interactive prompts, the IAT will score you based on your present biases, which you can then take along your leadership journey to grow and improve.

2. Provide Space For Open Dialogue

Open dialogue is a key ingredient for inclusive leadership. By allowing your employees to share their perspectives, experiences, and understandings of DEI&B efforts, you’re showing your team that their opinions and feedback matter. 

To start the conversation, Adrienne recommends hosting an “Ask Me Anything” session, which can be a safe place for your team to ask questions (this can be anonymous, too!). At the bottom line, your reports want to feel like their thoughts are being heard and understood, and an open dialogue allows you to listen to your team’s honest thoughts.

3. Tap Into Available Resources

For many leaders, it can feel stressful to implement DEI&B efforts without receiving prior training. The good news is that endless resources are available online for DEI&B training, learning, and leadership development. 

A few of our favorite ways to continue the conversation include: 

  • Locate and work with organizations that promote diversity and inclusion within your industry. At Celarity, we proudly work with The BrandLab, an organization on a mission to change the face and voice of the marketing industry. We also find inspiration from 100 Roses From Concrete, AdColor, and The Marcus Graham Project.
  • Attend DEI&B leadership events/conferences with your direct reports to spark conversations and movement in your organization.
  • Observe how other organizations recognize DEI&B initiatives and follow their steps if they resonate with your organization or team. 
  • Open an anonymous forum for employees to submit DEI&B ideas, initiatives, or thoughts.

4. Lead By Example

As a leader, your direct reports look to you for guidance during all sorts of situations, and modeling DEI&B behavior is no different. While showing your team what it means to be a welcoming ally at work, you are setting the stage for a team culture based on trust, collaboration, and welcoming for all individuals. 

As a bonus, recognize contributors that model inclusive behavior on their own, too. By calling out individual successes and recognizing how each team member can contribute to inclusive workspaces, your employees will likely feel more comfortable stepping up for positive change.

How To Be Inclusive In Your Hiring Practices

As important as it is to be inclusive within your internal teams, it is equally as important to model inclusive hiring practices, too. Our top 4 tips to set your team up for success are outlined below. 

1. Create An Inclusion Committee

As Andrienne notes, Inclusion and Belonging Councils can be comprised of individuals who are respected within your organization and passionate about creating a sense of belonging in the workplace. In terms of hiring, this team can put together DEI&B trainings for your organization’s hiring procedures, look over your hiring materials for inclusivity, or suggest ways to further promote diversity and belonging in your hiring methods. 

2. Diversify Your Job Descriptions

In many cases, your job postings are the first impression that candidates receive of your organization. One of the best ways to promote DEI&B to those outside your company is to diversify your job descriptions, ensuring that they use inclusive language, colors, graphics, and must-have requirements. 

Also, if your company offers great benefits or DEI&B initiatives, be sure to showcase them! This will help candidates feel welcome to apply, and it will prove your inclusion commitment to candidates right off the bat.

3. Practice Whole Person Interviewing 

Whole Person Interviewing is a human-centric and collaborative approach to interviewing that focuses on a candidate’s mindset, attitude, and passion to uncover their unique abilities and contributions to teams. 

This is a great way to implement inclusivity in your hiring practices, as you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about your candidate’s authentic selves and goals rather than merely the bullet points in their resumes. 

4. Create a Supportive Onboarding Process

Once you’ve made a hiring decision, the onboarding process sets the precedence for your new hires regarding welcoming and belonging. The steps you take during this stage are essential to welcome new members to your team and make them feel like they belong! 

We recommend starting with the following actionable steps:

  • Review your onboarding materials and training resources, and recruit others within your organization to do the same. Ensure your onboarding pieces are inclusive and serve a clear purpose in your onboarding outcomes. 
  • Plan a welcome event for your new hire to meet the team. This is a great way to promote a culture of belonging, and it can make your new team member feel welcomed from the beginning. 
  • Assign a mentor. Mentorship programs within your organization can allow your new team member to have a designed go-to outside of their manager, and it can have lasting impacts on how to welcome your new hire feels on the team. 

You may be surprised by these simple steps’ profound impact on your new team members, helping them feel ready to hit the ground running with your team.

Inclusivity Is Not Limited To Those In Leadership

As you move to inclusive leadership, remember: Whether you’re a leader, an individual contributor, or an intern – there is a place for you to promote inclusivity in the workplace. As Adrienne recommends, the following stepping stones are great ways to promote inclusivity in the workplace for all tenures:

  • Reach out to new team members and personally welcome them to the organization. Think about the welcome you would like to receive if you were the one joining the team. 
  • Listen to your colleagues (like, actively listen!). Engage in productive conversations and show your support to your coworkers by considering their experiences. 
  • Extend your kindness and empathy to your coworkers and clients. Understand that there is a person on the other side, and things come up that are out of our control. It can make a world of difference to take a step back and offer your support during trying situations.
  • Join your organization’s DEI&B committee, or find programs/events to share with your team that promote implementing DEI&B efforts in the workplace. 

Ultimately, it takes a community to make positive change – even in the workplace! By welcoming diversity, inclusion, and belonging, you can help make your organization a more collaborative and inclusive environment.

Take Action

Now that you have actionable steps and plans for inclusive leadership, it’s time to take action! At the bottom line, remember to treat others how you’d like to be treated, and you’ll be on your way toward ensuring all feel welcome in your workspace. As you move along your journey, know that you have what it takes to be successful in your efforts!

And, always remember that not all of the things that make individuals diverse can be seen, heard, or observed. It’s important to treat all of your employees with inclusion and respect. 

If you find that you could use support along the way, our team would love to help. Start the conversation today!

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