Maria Menounos of AfterBuzz TV, Kim Commins-Tzoumakas of 21st Century Oncology, and Jennifer Connelly of JConnelly, Inc., in the FQ Lounge @ SALT

Committing to Change: 8 Lessons on Inclusive Leadership

How can we all be leaders for change? By now, most of us know that bringing different perspectives to the table yields higher returns. In the FQ Lounge @ SALT, top industry leaders across tech, finance, politics, and entertainment discussed how inclusion and values-driven leadership can help build equality into the fabric and DNA of high-performing teams. In case you missed it, we’ve got you covered with a roundup of our favorite moments from the lounge.


“Imagine the future, inspire the team, and make it happen!”

Lesley Slaton Brown, Chief Diversity Officer, HP

Everyone should take a cue from Leslie’s three leadership principles if they want to build an organization powered by inclusion and unlock the key to customer satisfaction. An engaged, inclusive culture directly translates to thriving customer experience. Research shows that 84% of organizations working to improve their customer experience report an increase in revenue. So, in order to deliver the best customer experience and ultimately improve the bottom line, it’s key that leaders focus on creating the best employee experience.


“We’re no longer accepting apologies, just changed behavior.”

Camille Clemons, Director, IQ-EQ

Advancing diversity is “an ongoing evolution,” says Camille. “It’s funny when people rely on the excuse that they cannot find any qualified candidates. If we’re only looking in the same places, then we’re not going to find anyone different. We have to remind ourselves that diversity isn’t a one-time event or something that we can simply ‘fix.’ It can get messy and it’s no longer enough for companies to just say, ‘Well, we have this program.’ Now, investors are not only asking companies, ‘What do your policies look like?’ They’re also asking, ‘What are you doing and what are the tangible results of the differences that you’re putting in place?’”


“It’s very important that, as a C-suite leader or president, you make it very clear that these are the values of the company.”

-Todd Sears, Founder, Out Leadership

One of the top LinkedIn “Big Ideas for 2019” is that leaders are getting political. Why? Consumers and employees are demanding that leaders take a stance on important issues now more than ever. A 2018 survey by Edelman found that 64% of global consumers agree that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than wait on the government to impose it. Todd encourages business leaders to understand the potential of their individual influence. “Politics are generally not tied to a business strategy. I think making an issue a Democratic or Republican one is the wrong way to go. Tying an issue to not only a business strategy but also corporate culture, is key,” says Todd.


“The core values of a company have to be where every decision comes from.

– Alison Kutler, Strategic Policy Advisers Leader, PwC

From employee walkouts to exerting pressure on social media, executives have to navigate political times. But how do leaders take a stance without polarizing their base? Alison says the approach to corporate engagement must align with a company’s mission and values. When companies create a core set of principles and know their purpose, corporate activism unites customers and the workforce around the concept of a greater good.


“Let’s keep sharing our stories.”

-Erica Volini, US Human Capital Leader, Deloitte Consulting

If 76% of people worldwide agreed with the statement that improving diversity in the workplace increases company profitability, why haven’t more companies moved the needle by now? It starts with recognizing that diversity matters because we’re all human. Being human means we’re all connected by the universal desire to feel heard and valued for our unique voices. When we feel as though our individual perspectives are recognized and rewarded, then we’re more likely to take risks and take pride in our work. Feeling fulfilled at work translates to productivity, which is what ultimately impacts the bottom line.

So what’s the best way to create cultures of care? According to Erica, it’s sharing our stories. “When we exchange our unique stories, the conversation about diversity and inclusion becomes personal. And when it hits the human element, that’s how we drive change.” It may seem simple, but creating a transparent environment in which people feel safe to be their authentic selves at work is as important of a diversity strategy as is setting quotas.


“I think we spend a lot of time talking about what women can’t do. I think we should talk about all the things women are doing.”

– Jennifer Connelly, CEO of JConnelly

According to recent research, a whopping 72% of employees believe that we need to redefine the meaning of leadership in today’s world. The findings suggest that characteristics traditionally considered feminine or “soft power” traits, such as being communicative, flexible, and patient, came out on top.  We need to celebrate leaders who possess a balance of soft and hard power skills.


“You bring something different to the table than someone else brings.”

Maria Menounos, Emmy Award-winning Journalist, CEO, and Founder, AfterBuzz TV

In order to overcome challenges in our personal and work lives, everybody needs to intentionally learn to appreciate individual differences—in gender, skin color, ethnicity, age, political views, religion, or sexual orientation. “Whether you’re up or you’re down, if you help someone, then that person will help you one day when you need it,” Maria says. “At the end of the day, I’d rather bet on all of us than the opposite.”


“Once we unpack the truth and look at things for what they really are, it’s much easier to move society forward.”

– Anthony Scaramucci, Founder and Co-Managing Partner, SkyBridge

When it comes to talking about taboo topics, we all need to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable. Accelerating progress towards equality is our shared responsibility, which means both men and women have to bridge the gap and start courageous conversations together. “We should put energy into making this society better,” says Anthony.

Change doesn’t only happen from the top-down, but from all around. We can all be leaders if we choose to be. Leaders who embrace an equality mindset where they’re able to put themselves into others’ shoes and walk the talk, will inspire their teammates to create more inclusive workplaces. With bold leadership and small steps, we can have a big impact.


Find more equality tips here:

Why Gender Diversity is Good for Business and the World

How to Make Diversity a Reality

The Leadership Traits That Will Empower You—And Your Team