There are countless leadership models out there and more recently you can even find inclusive leadership models. Most of these models include some common foundational elements. At VisionSpring, we too have our inclusive leadership model and I am sure to no surprise it includes 3 major competencies: Leads Self – Leads Others – Drives Results. This seems pretty intuitive to me, so it may beg the question why do we need leadership models at all? My answer to that is because it creates focus and accountability. Models serve as a written reminder that helps leaders lead effectively and inclusively in the most challenging of times.  And in some cases may actually serve as a form of instruction to those of us who may not be entirely familiar with the concept of inclusive leadership and the expectations aligned with it, in my opinion, is just good leadership.

At the core of our model is the concept of Leading Self – of managing and directing one’s own attitudes and behaviors in ways that are inclusive and free from disparity. It is the most important and most difficult competency to master. We cannot begin to effectively lead others or drive results until we become comfortable and adept at managing ourselves. In fact, Leads Self is the first step to becoming an inclusive leader.  

A more in-depth look at our Leads Self Competency and the behaviors help us clarify the expectations around leading one’s self in an inclusive manner.

Leads Self: The ability to recognize and manage one’s own assumptions, values, biases, strengths and limitations in order to build trust and create an environment where all can succeed.

Pursues Self Awareness: Is aware of one’s own assumptions, values, biases, strengths and limitations, and understands how attitudes, behaviors and decisions impact individual and team perception, judgment, and performance.

Builds Trust: Behaves in a fair and ethical manner toward others. Is open and honest and willing to take a stand. Follows through on commitments and demonstrates a sense of personal and corporate responsibility and commitment to public service.

Shares Authority: Enables all individuals to contribute fully regardless of age, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender, function or level. Is open to constructive feedback and asking for help. Understands when it is important to be a follower and is comfortable sharing power and credit.  

Embraces Uncertainty: Welcomes change and new information, and is open to ideas and opportunities that challenge the status quo. Is willing to take risks and own and learn from mistakes.

Leverages Privilege: Understands position of power and privilege and how to leverage it in support of goals and the success of others.

Essentially, to lead self more inclusively requires a heightened sense of self-awareness. As a first step, evaluate your network. How like you are those individuals closest to you, those individuals you trust the most and those individuals to tend to rely on most heavily? How much diversity is there among your inner circle? And ask yourself how the diversity or lack of diversity within your most trusted network may be impacting the development and success of the marginalized employees on your team.

Next look for patterns in your behavior or patterns in organizational culture that may not be inclusive. For example, are you scheduling important meetings early in the morning or late in the evenings, making it hard for working parents, particularly working mothers to participate? Or do you talk shop on the golf course, basketball court or at the local bar? Think about who is with you on the court or course? Ask yourself, does everyone on your team have equal access to these kinds of conversations or opportunities?

Finally, think about the ways in which you are using your leadership clout on behalf of others. As an inclusive leader, you must hold yourself accountable as well as others. Help your peers take similar steps to manage and direct their own behaviors. And use your power and credibility to advocate on behalf of others, especially those marginalized employee groups who may not enjoy the same access and privileges as other employees.

Inclusive leadership starts with a deeper sense of self. Once you become comfortable exploring and changing your behavior you can begin the next phase of your inclusive leadership journey of leading others.  __________________________________________________________________

Robin Pedrelli is the co-founder and partner of VisionSpring, Inc. VisionSpring, Inc. is a WBENC certified women owned and operated diversity and inclusion consulting firm offering fully integrated strategy development, workforce planning, training and continuous learning solutions to leverage diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and improved business outcomes.  We provide customized strategic solutions that address the specific needs of each client and blend workforce, workplace, marketplace and community-related goals.