Inclusive Leadership is an important aspect of the job leading and managing staff, but little acknowledged as a genuine challenge that requires intentional effort from the leader and real support by the organisation.
This means that a leader or manager who has an interest in developing greater awareness of Inclusive Leadership may not be aware of what is available to them. There are articles that can be found through an online search. These offer a condensed summation of related ideas; but cannot provide the essential ‘how to’ guidance.
I scanned available books on Inclusive Leadership and selected two audiobooks which were well rated, and relatively short.
by Erika Nielsen Brown is just under 3 ½ hours.
How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Creating Trust, Cooperation, and Community Across Differences by Jennifer Brown is just over 4 hours.
Good, but different, resources
Both books serve useful purposes, with distinctly different approaches. Erika Nielsen Brown provides a solid discussion on what Inclusive Leadership is, whereas Jennifer Brown sets out a methodology based on her own consultancy work.
How to Be an Inclusive Leader assumes the reader already has a commitment to becoming an Inclusive Leader and is okay with embarking on a process of change immediately. The book is essentially a full on ‘how to’ guide.
Diversity in the Work Place takes a different approach. It lays out an argument that would suit a reader who wants to feel that there is no presumption that they are totally on board and ready to get into developing or refining their approach to Inclusive Leadership.
I found them sufficiently different as to be of combined value. I listened to them back-to-back over a couple of days and didn’t feel like there was a lot of repetition. Obviously, the key ideas are the same in essence, but the approaches were sufficiently different to make the individual angles interesting and valuable.
Some key observations
Based on my notes as I listened to book books.
Diversity in the Work Place
- A very good discussion on how bias is hardwired into us.
- Explores elements of social psychology that indicate how unconscious behaviour that was survival oriented remains active – and can be misapplied.
- As we evolved, our behaviour was energy efficient – of necessity. We have an aversion to expending energy needlessly – responding to change, which is often unwelcome, is energy demanding. It can trigger aversion to the unfamiliar – individuals and cultural settings.
- Biases are not only hardwired in us, we are also inclined to resist changing them.
- Explaining the reason for biases does not mean ‘excusing’ them.
- Very good discussion on – “As leaders, it is important to understand where our own, and our employees, biases originate, so we can begin the process of dismantling them.“
- The language is unfortunate – a case of a very good diagnosis but not the best framing of the ‘cure’. Mentions ‘correcting’ biases – an unfortunate terminology because it suggests something is wrong. I prefer to think in terms of evolving. That said, the author is not judgmental or blaming.
- A diverse workplace is where “everyone feels part of an us even with their differences and no one is pushed out as a them.”
- Bias can be conscious and unconscious. This is important. It means those who believe they are inclusive can still be influenced by unconscious biases
- Our ability to be aware of our biases and manage them can be a mixture of unconscious and conscious responses. Figuring out what drives us to respond, or act, is not always an easy thing to do.
- Not too many workshops – give support in a way that gives employees time to focus on engaging with their biases. Don’t overload. Remember that change resistance is not always recalcitrance.
How to Be an Inclusive Leader
- It is neuro-biologically impossible to eliminate bias – but you can become more conscious of it.
- Focus on how to become aware of biases, and not why (My note – beyond assuring that bias is not ‘wrong’, but just not appropriate. Not everyone is into the science).
- Becoming an Inclusive Leader is a “personal and emotional journey”.
- “No matter where we start as leaders, we all have a responsibility to learn how to improve our knowledge, skill and competencies to better support our colleagues, companies, and the people around us”
- Adds ‘Belonging’ to Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. (My note – I like that – BIDE (bide means to remain, or stay) – so the foundation of retention?)
- Becoming an Inclusive Leader helps a leader “evolve” and become a better version of themselves in the process (author has 4 stages in a continuum of that evolution). It is “a humbling journey of discovery that’s not always easy”
- Rather than good or bad, better we think in terms of aware/unaware and conscious/unconscious
- Refers reader to Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability
Both books have a focus on the US (that’s the biggest marketplace for all books in English), and this might lead a reader to imagine that things are not as bad in Australia. I want to caution against that. In the US there is a far more active conversation and there is much more publicly available research and discussion. Better figure it’s just as bad here – and we just don’t know it.
The level of exclusion and the persistence of bias and discrimination across all diversity areas, and not just disability, means that inclusiveness is a challenge for all of us.
Jennifer Brown included a quote from Peter Drucker (the great management consultant) – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This means that creating an inclusive culture is far better than having to come up with strategies to remedy issues that arise from exclusion.
Inclusive Leadership is critical to creating such a culture. If you can do only one book, chose carefully. Both are valuable; and reading both is recommended for readers who want a strong foundation in understanding how to be an Inclusive Leader.
I have Amazon links below to both books. I support local independent booksellers and have the Amazon links because they have audiobooks and ebooks which may be more accessible to some readers.