2020 has been a time of unrest, listening, and re-evaluating priorities.
Businesses have been particularly challenged to examine their own biases and to proactively seek the well-being of all people. While topics of diversity and inclusion can be difficult to navigate, strong leaders recognize that a variety of opinions and backgrounds bring a better result.
At P&G, this mindset drives leaders to embrace conflicting opinions. To create an inclusive environment, supervisors try not to shy away from disagreements or heated discussions:
“Accessing diverse points of view is vital in creating optimum strategies and plans,” said Geraldine Huse, CEO & chairman of the board. “An inclusive leader creates an environment where disagreement is viewed positively. I have learned from experience that the more diverse the team, the more debate and disagreement we have and the better the outcome . . . Listening to people, understanding and solving problems collectively, taking advantage of all the diverse experience – this is what makes an inclusive leader successful.”
Leadership is Influence
No factor plays a bigger role in creating a company’s culture than its leadership.
Many people think of leadership as a top-down, closed circle of directors. But real leadership is influence, so scientists describe leadership differently. Specifically, leaders are people who can navigate a psychological process that enables individuals to improve collective actions. The best teams are comprised of people who set aside individual, selfish agendas to work as a cohesive unit. Here, groups achieve something powerful they could never accomplish alone.
If you want to develop effective, influential leaders, collaboration is key. While there is no simple method for building an inclusive corporate culture, here are three traits you can encourage in yourself and others.
Being in charge doesn’t mean you are right.
Read that sentence again, because we all need to hear it! One of the primary reasons you’ll fail to grow as a leader is your temptation toward pride. Just because you feel confident about something doesn’t mean you couldn’t be wrong. Humble leaders are willing to listen to others, to admit weakness, and to change their minds.
People who influence others are those who drive change.
But this can be very uncomfortable! While it is rarely convenient to challenge the status quo, innovation and diversity can’t flourish in static environments. In particular, courageous leaders are clear on their values and principles, but they are brave enough to do things differently. As Dr. Carol Dweck once said, the word FAIL means “First Attempt In Learning.”
Courageous leaders can walk away from unproductive situations, and they view diversity as an opportunity rather than a challenge.
Leaders are learners, and no trait is as foundational for growth as curiosity.
Curious leaders are interested in other people and don’t shy away from those different than them. They are eager to understand why people think the way they do, and they aren’t afraid to engage with those who disagree.
To be a curious learner, ask a lot of questions (even dumb questions!). Work to suspend your embedded attitudes, experiences, or assumptions, and lean into a mental or emotional state where things “might” fail. Allow people to explore imaginary outcomes with phrases like, “could it be?” or “what if?” Then listen without judgment to learn.
Fuel Synergy From Diversity
Do you want to build a culture where everyone can thrive?
Leaders who can create a strong synergy out of diverse (or even opposite!) individual elements will embrace conflict and welcome different perspectives. By reducing the homogeneity of groupthink, you will maximize collaboration, encourage personal and corporate well-being, and keep your decision-making biases in check.