5 Actions Every Inclusive Leader Needs to Take

Anyone serious about leading inclusively, should consider these five behaviors. 

Beyond the positive bottom-line impacts of diversity and inclusion, Celeste Warren, VP of Human Resources and Global Diversity and Inclusion at Merck, believes “there is an awakening” happening as it relates to how organizations should approach diversity and inclusion.

What was once a taboo topic is now becoming an everyday conversation.

Finding ways to be inclusive at work is no longer a benefit of a few progressive companies, it is the status quo that must be met to recruit and retain talent. 

Warren explains her five tips for leading from a place of inclusivity. 

5 Tips to Be a Better Inclusive Leader

1. Develop a listening and empathetic ear

“[Leaders must] create an environment where they open their doors and listen,” says Warren. “They don’t have to have all the answers because that would be highly improbable but a listening and empathetic ear can help create an environment where employees are more productive and engaged.”

2. Understand the varying generational definitions of diversity

Baby Boomers and Generation X tend to define diversity along the traditional lines of gender, race, and ethnicity. However, Millennials and Generation Z tend to define diversity more multi-layered ways. “Generation Z thinks more diversely because they’ve been surrounded by diverse, global perspectives through social media and other technology,” says Warren. 

The emerging generations also view diversity and inclusion as fundamental to the way a company does business, more so than previous generations. In fact, 53 percent of Millennials would leave their current organization for a more inclusive one and 30 percent have left an organization for a more inclusive one. 

3. Embody these inclusive characteristics 

According to Warren, there are five characteristics inclusive leaders need to embody. 

1. Team Focused 
2. Active listener 
3. Willingness to learn and grow 
4. Perceptive and self-aware of potential unconscious bias that may hinder decision-making
5. Bring the best out of themselves and others 
(Read this for six questions that reveal if you are an inclusive leader.) 

4. Know when not to have the answer

“An inclusive leader knows when to have the answers and when to let the team figure it out,” says Warren. “If the answer is ‘no’, leaders should provide the context and encourage employees to come back [to the leader] in the future.” 

Learn how to ask for help. Take the position of being shameless and admitting when you don’t know. Be confident in your ability to seek out the right people with the right answers to help with finding your solution.

5. Nurture creativity and innovation

“Create strong group dynamics and an environment where people feel energized, empowered, and engaged to speak their minds,” says Warren. “An inclusive leader should have the ability to unleash the creativity of their team, achieve predetermined objectives, and see the larger opportunities that exist for the team and organization.”