Inclusive Leadership: From the Margins to the Middle

Categories: Diversity & Inclusion, Global Mindset, Global Teams

Post by Dr. Ernest Gundling, Ph.D.

In late 2020, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel (a virtual one, of course) for the International Leadership Association’s “From the Margins to the Middle: Leadership for Inclusion,” alongside Joyce Osland of the KOZAI Group and Professor of Global Leadership at San Jose State University, and Erby Foster, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Clorox. The panel discussion covered inclusive behaviors and their role and impact on leadership.

Here are some of the main takeaways from our discussion on inclusive leadership:

Companies are going from talk to action. Organizations are taking charge, going from just speaking about and discussing unconscious bias to developing actionable plans for inclusive leadership. Of course, a focus on unconscious bias will continue to be a big part of inclusive leadershipthat’s not going anywhere. However, we’re now seeing a real movement from leading organizations to institute specific steps and actions that can make an impactputting into practice what they’ve been talking about for a while.

Development methods are changing. Organizations are also looking to move from one-time learning events to sustainable, long-term developmental systems for inclusive leadership. They’re seeing the benefits of continuing work and education to influence generations of leaders, rather than one-off events that might be quickly forgotten. 

There’s a new focus on customization for global audiences. We’re seeing more organizations develop systems and strategies for inclusive leadership with locally relevant plans adapted to different circumstances across each of their global locations. We address why this is so critical in our recent work “Race, Ethnicity, and Social Justice: A Global Perspective.”

Compliance still matters. Going back a decade or so, many people thought that global organizations were moving away from compliance issues (or they had addressed most of them). However, we are seeing that there is a lot of discussion among organizations to make sure that they’re still carefully addressing any relevant compliance issues even while working systematically for greater inclusion.

Trust and Empathy open doors.  Much has been said about topics such as “courageous conversations,” but it is important to keep in mind that trust is more important than techniques. The right to engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations must be earned through focused listening and cultivating genuine personal empathy, creating a foundation of mutual trust. Listening, empathy, and trust are entry points to hearing about the real lived experiences of colleagues. Such personal narratives provide insights into key strengths as well as unearned disadvantages that others might havevital clues for how to best support their development and to engage in productive teamwork. Research shows that it is a lot easier to cut through biases when people have a sense of their colleagues’ unique personal characteristics rather than relying on stereotypes or categories.

Looking to create a foundation for an inclusive organizational culture? 

About the Author

Ernest Gundling, Ph.D.
Co-Founder and Managing Partner

Dr. Gundling has worked with numerous Fortune 500 firms and is a sought-after keynote speaker and executive coach. He has lived in Asia and Europe, including six years in Japan. Dr. Gundling holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. from Stanford University; he also serves as a Lecturer in the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of six books, the latest titled, Inclusive Leadership, Global Impact.

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