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Diversity & Inclusion in Leadership Development

by Jackson B

Leila McKenzie-Delis, Founder and CEO of DIAL Global

The business case for diversity has been proven and it is now time for organisations and leaders to step up today, recognise the importance of diversity and take action to better our workplaces. It’s time for leaders to stretch and develop themselves. For them to learn how to challenge the status quo and push for a world of fairness, difference and belonging. It’s time for leaders to not just support, but to advocate for diversity and tolerance inside and outside their organisations.

As a businesswoman who has been at the forefront campaigning for diversity in business, I take my role as a leader seriously. I play a central role in developing leadership programmes with a holistic approach through DIAL Global (Diverse, Inclusive, Aspirational, Leaders), which fosters an unwavering passion to include all, and to consider all the segments of diversity that harness the power of intersectionality beyond only skin level.

Why are diversity and inclusion crucial to leadership development?

The world is a rich assortment of talent. Every one of us has diverse idiosyncrasies that make us unique. This means that the D&I agenda of any organisation belongs to all of us. It is a holistic, intrinsic, and collective responsibility that we all share to drive equality and shine a light on ours and others’ individuality. 

That said, up till now, many businesses haven’t been prioritising diversity and inclusivity to the extent that they should, which is why leadership development teams and programmes should review and reform its current processes for better workplaces.

As we grow as people in both business and society, it is crucial to consider this diversity journey as evolution and candidly acknowledge where we are today and how we can improve.

With all that is going on in the world today and the increased online exploits which project an “us versus them” culture, the more we must consider the positive power of intersectionality and all aspects of diversity, inclusion and belonging. The goal is not to project differences that drive us further apart but to embrace the uniqueness that brings us closer together.

To hear and see everyone as their true self and from their unique backgrounds and experiences is more important than ever before – important to drive innovation, to drive creativity, to drive retention, to drive profitability and to drive our economy. 

What areas of diversity and inclusion should be taken into account?

On the surface, most people perceive diversity and inclusion to be about race, gender and ethnicity but there are several more facets which leaders need to take in to account for businesses to be truly diverse and inclusive. 

DIAL Global commissioned, The McKenzie-Delis Packer Review this year to look at the entire eclectic mix of diversity that deserves to be recognised and explored. – both visible and invisible diversities This encompasses race and ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, disability, socioeconomic background, nationality, religion, and parenthood. By factoring in ten facets of D&I, this Review represents a significant step forward in how D&I is debated and considered and provides a view into where we are, and what more we need to do.

We created the report to consider the importance of each of the ten holistic facets of diversity, inclusion and belonging while also shining a light on the sum of all the parts as opposed to just a few. Designed to be used as a diagnostic tool for the workplace of the future, the review is the start of a new industry standard where companies recognise and report on many different aspects of D&I.

Resources such as the McKenzie-Delis Packer Review and internal surveys are essential for assessing what action needs to be taken to improve businesses and can help inform leadership development programmes.

The benefits of peer-to-peer learning

Peer-to-peer schemes are a modern approach to developing leadership skills and can help build a global network. Learning directly from your peers who are facing the same challenges, obstacles, experiences and successes can greatly increase the speed at which leaders can impact change. 

For example, DIAL Global offers a membership program which connects professionals around the world who are involved in driving diversity, inclusion and belonging. The membership provides networking, access to webinars, podcasts and toolkits. It is a safe community for leaders working towards a common goal, to share best practice and struggles.

With any development programme, the individual must have a clear objective of what they want to achieve and how they can put the learnings in to practise. So, for those looking to factor D&I into leadership development, here are some tips:

  • It is essential that, as a leader, you have a clear vision of the goals of the organisation as well as the team. Work with your peers to create well thought out strategies for your team and share it with your employees. As the fiduciary, take feedback from your team, especially those who might have a fresher or forward-thinking approach, and include them in your strategic planning sessions. This is a clear indication that you value their opinion, which makes you a good leader. Moreover, it will open doors for out-of-the-box ideas that might significantly contribute to strategic planning.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses within the existing senior leadership team and try to use them to your benefit. As a leader, it is crucial to continually build your skills and put them into practice just as much as any other employee. 
  • Senior team members tone can often filter down and affect employee morale and the quality of work. So, maintaining a positive approach towards action and change can help shape the confidence of your team. Optimism is a beneficial trait, especially in the face of challenges and conflicts.
  • Motivation, whether internal or external, is one of the most important leadership traits and can be difficult to constantly sustain, particularly those who work in a silo. This is where peer-to-peer programmes can help support leaders and keep them inspired, which will help them motivate their workforce members and deliver to the best of their capabilities. 
  • It’s important to trial and test different methods as well. Different leadership styles work in different settings. So, to ensure that you identify the leadership theories that are most suitable for your organisation you should consider different approaches.

Measuring progress

One of the oldest pieces of management advice is ‘what gets measured, gets done.’ Bringing the same standards of informed decision-making used throughout management to the business of D&I can be a game-changer.

The development of a comprehensive diagnostic tool like the McKenzie-Delis Packer Review represents a significant step forward in how D&I is measured and can provide a unique level of insight into where your organisation is, and what more you need to do.

An open and honest analysis can help your organisation understand where you may have equity issues and provide a data-based foundation to set goals and where to focus initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion. This informed approach to decision making amongst leaders will revolutionise how senior teams are developed and create more opportunities for prospective leaders of the future.

It’s time for all businesses to make public commitments to diversity and equality, driving real actions and measurable results.

The time for equality is now. 

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