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Redefining Leadership: The Inclusion Imperative

Here at The FQ, we’re always coming up with new ways to collaborate with other organizations and share the benefits of inclusive cultures in the workplace. That’s why we released the “Shift/Forward: The Future of Leadership” study in partnership with Deloitte. This research provides essential insights into how leadership styles can meet the evolving needs and expectations of today’s workforce.

We discovered that many employees want more from their organization’s current leadership. 72% of employees said we need to redefine leadership to fit the demands of today’s modern world. What are they looking for? The “Human CEO:” a leader of any seniority level who is able to balance soft and hard power traits.

We recently hosted The FQ Lounge with Deloitte @ Oracle OpenWorld, which was a natural extension of our mission to advance the inclusion dialogue within the tech industry and beyond. The takeaway? The modern workforce is continuing to call for new leadership. Here’s advice from top leaders on how to fit these rising demands.


The Road to Inclusion is More of an Intersection

Leaders today face new challenges due to the speed of technological, social, and economic change. One of their biggest challenges is uniting and engaging a workforce across several demographics, including generation, race, gender, income, education, and location. How can leaders improve cohesion among such a diverse group of employees? It starts with recognizing that no one succeeds alone— it takes a team to make big things happen. Effective leaders understand that “Inclusion is more than just a number,” as female NASA astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle says. “You need everyone, every skill, every resource,” says Yvonne. “That makes you appreciate the importance of diversity and inclusion. You can’t afford to leave anyone behind.”


Call Out the Bias Barrier

In addition to setting clear targets to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities at senior levels, organizations are making progress towards becoming more inclusive. Deloitte’s 2019 state of inclusion report shows that 86% of respondents feel like they can be themselves at work most of the time. The not-so-good news: The majority of respondents said they also experience or witness subtle and indirect bias frequently. This “bias barrier,” as Deloitte calls it, has a negative impact on productivity, well-being, and engagement at work.

So, what’s the solution? According to Senior Manager at Deloitte Monis Muzaffar, “We all have to be conscious when we are the leaders driving the conversation… we need to have that uncomfortable conversation so men in the room become conscious and so that they don’t bring internal biases to work.” Once we understand the biases that people experience in the workplace, we can foster a truly inclusive environment — one that encourages each individual to embody allyship in everyday interactions. “Being aware of yourself and your own biases is half the battle,” as Michelle Hulst, GVP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Oracle, says.


Bring Your Full Self to Work

It’s pretty simple: creating a transparent environment where people feel safe to be their authentic selves at work is as important as a diversity strategy as is setting quotas. When weaving caring into the organizational fabric, leaders should look to balance hard and soft power traits. In our study with Deloitte, respondents were clear that they are looking for leaders to be more transparent (47%), authentic (50%), and to recognize their own weaknesses (53%). In the modern workplace, people are seeking leaders who have the humility to open up about their own vulnerabilities and take accountability for accelerating inclusion. By adopting these traits, leaders can create a stronger sense of advancement among employees and, in turn, help their organization succeed.


Recognize the Importance of Inclusive Language

Actions matter, but they don’t always speak louder than words — at least not when it comes to promoting parity in the workplace. It’s time for us all, to take a critical look at the impact of what we say and how we say it. Tiny tweaks in language have the potential to make a huge difference. As a new study by PNAS revealed, gender-neutral language positively impacts opinions towards gender and LGBT equality. Research from Deloitte recently found that 85% of professionals also want to hear “thank you” in day-to-day interactions. While a simple verbal “thank you” is often the easiest way to show someone our appreciation, most of us prefer to be recognized for the unique contributions we bring to the table.

According to John Steele, National Offering Lead Oracle at Deloitte, understanding individual preferences around recognition is vital to making people feel like they are valued and belong. Leaders should consider, “What makes people tick? How do we bring everyone into the conversation?” says Steele. “Not everyone has the same communication style. Drawing them in with more open dialogue is important.”

Modeling authenticity, communicating transparently, investing in relationships, and evolving constantly are the new measures on which 21st-century leadership will be judged. Don’t miss out. Step up now and seize the opportunity to become a leader.


For more on how leaders can champion equality, check out:

10 Leaders on How to Raise Your Profile at Work

We All Have Bias: Here is How to Bust It

The Leadership Traits That Will Empower You— And Your Team