They say it is impossible to be all things to all people if we wish to be successful. The reason for this is that we invariably behave, in attempting this, to try to please everyone. Pleasing everyone is impossible, particularly when we understand the diverse and unique nature of people.
The takeaway from this is that the job of a leader is actually never to please people. The leadership task is made of more serious stuff involving often what is required for the general good of individuals, groups, and the organisation. This is mostly a complex endeavour involving judgment, reason, and wisdom, combined with deep care about fulfilling potential and destiny.
Inclusive leadership training must, therefore, take a hard look at how to be a leader for everyone—not only in isolation as individuals but also as a collective of interlocking interests and dependencies. Leaders must focus on understanding and optimisation continually. This is beyond the confines of the internal organisation as it extends to managing boundaries with the external environment in a highly anticipatory manner.
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The leadership agenda
Inclusive leadership can never be about maintaining the status quo. To be effective, continual stretching of individuals and groups is required to make sense of the past and meet present and future challenges. Adjusting and aligning thinking, feeling, and behaviour is integral to what is ongoing in a dynamic environment.
When one considers the work of a leader in an organisational culture that seeks to be inclusive, one of the more important characteristics of the leader is to be adaptable and flexible; again, not simply for the sake of pleasing, but more importantly for the sake of being responsive. Often adjustments are required to best deal with specific individuals, groups, and organisational needs in diverse situations.
If we look at the question, “what is inclusive leadership”, we soon encounter the fact that it must be about being a catalyst for evolution and imparting empowerment whilst concurrently building fellowships. How the inclusive leader actually achieves this, for everyone and with everyone, will be very different almost every time.
To be an inclusive leader for everyone will involve being a strong advocate for personal leadership at every level and in every job. Inclusive leadership training and having roots in diversity awareness motivate leaders to see that individual and group freedom is only truly borne out of self-understanding, acceptance, and belief. Once these are in place, confidence will grow to take charge with confidence.
The ultimate indicator of the success of an inclusive leader is when there is less and less reliance on them. Individuals and groups become more cohesive in taking on joint accountability for themselves and their outcomes. Leaders become a point of reflection and a sounding board to elevate performance and share a vision of creativity, innovation, and greater possibilities.
Inclusive leadership for everyone also involves the important objective of ensuring more and more people from diverse groups take on senior formal leadership roles. Not only is this morally beneficial, in terms of sharing opportunity and reward, but it also demonstrates commitment and integrity in following diversity, equality, and inclusion principles.
Ultimately, this validation that leadership is inherent within diversity will speak to everyone about vision becoming reality. Inclusive leadership must make space for everyone and unleash the energy and passion of people to rise up to become great. The more inclusive leadership is able to accelerate the realisation of diverse potential, the greater will be the impact and returns for all. Everyone will be pleased, for the right reasons.