We all have biases – both conscious and unconscious – that can derail our attempts at inclusive leadership. The goal, then, is not to eliminate our biases altogether (that would be impossible) but to be aware of them, and work to lessen their effects on our thoughts, words, and behaviors. This requires being mindful of the impact of our thoughts, words, and behaviors, and how they might differ from our intentions. We must be willing to self-reflect, self-regulate, and interrupt our thought patterns that represent old habits that are non-inclusive to people “not like us.”
Being curious requires that you approach everything with a beginner’s mindset, that you always lead with empathy and compassion, and that you embrace uncertainty. When you have a high tolerance for ambiguity, you create a culture for growth, and allow for creative and innovative ideas to surface. Inclusive leaders are comfortable being in a state of negative capability, which is the ability to contemplate the world without the desire to try to fit it into closed and rational systems. Inclusive leaders trust the process, they trust their team, and they trust themselves to deliver what’s best for each member of their team.
Cultural intelligence – also called cultural competence – is the ability to recognize that not everyone sees the world through the same cultural frame. It’s knowing and embracing that your norm isn’t necessarily the norm. Leaders who display high cultural intelligence listen more than they speak, they ask for insight and input from all members of their team, and they are interested on purpose in learning all they can about people and cultures with whom they are unfamiliar. Culturally intelligent leaders are emotionally agile, embrace change, and have done their own personal development work to get to place of self-confidence and self-actualization.