6 Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM DELOITTE DIGITAL

Dr. Terri Cooper, Principal & Chief Inclusion Officer, Deloitte Consulti (1)

Dr. Terri Cooper, Principal & Chief Inclusion Officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP

What will it take to be a great leader in the future?  Listen to Angelia Herrin, Special Projects editor for Harvard Business Review, interview Dr. Terri Cooper, Principal and Chief Inclusion Officer of Deloitte Consulting, as she discusses six attributes of leaders who display the ability to not only embrace individual differences, but to potentially leverage them for competitive advantage.

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Angelia Herrin, HBR

Welcome to the Quick Take, a sponsored conversation with Harvard Business Review and Deloitte Consulting. I’m Angelia Herrin, Editor for Special Projects and Research at HBR. Today, we’re talking with Dr. Terri Cooper, the Global Sector Leader for healthcare and the US national chief inclusion leader for Deloitte. We’re discussing a new Deloitte report around leadership in a diverse new world. Dr. Cooper, thank you so much for joining us today.

Terri Cooper, Ph.D.

Thank you, Angelia. I’m thrilled to be able to use this podcast to share with you our latest thinking, and what is required to be an inclusive leader that can thrive in this diverse new world.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

This report makes the point that people in leadership roles are facing new demands because the context for leadership is changing. What do you mean by that?

Terri Cooper, Ph.D.

I think that everyone would agree that our current business environment is undergoing exponential change. From our perspective, there are four mega trends that are currently reshaping our world and influencing business priorities. The first is diversity of markets. The demand is shifting to emerging markets. The second is diversity of customers. Customer demographics and attitudes are changing rapidly. The third is diversity of ideas. Technology, connectivity, and deregulation, are truly disrupting business value chains and the nature of consumption and competition. Lastly, the fourth is diversity of talent, shifts in age profiles, education, global mobility, along with the change in expectations of equal opportunity and work life balance.

As a result of these changes, we felt that it was critical to determine how leaders need to adjust their traditional notions of leadership if they are to continue to succeed in the future. To understand the changes required, we have mined our experiences with more than 1000 global leaders. We undertook deep dives into the views of just over 15 significant global leaders, as well as a substantial number of subject matter experts, and surveying over 1500 employees to gain their perceptions of inclusion. As a result, our research identified six signature traits that we truly believe are critical for individuals to be an inclusive leader, moving forward.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Does this new form of leadership that you call inclusive leadership demand a whole new approach to leadership? How do you define inclusive leadership?

Terri Cooper, Ph.D.

While there are core aspects of leadership, such as setting direction and influences others, are timeless, we believe there are six traits that are becoming more and more important to drive an inclusive mindset and inclusive behaviors in this rapidly changing world. These traits are commitment, courage, cognizance of bias, curiosity, cultural intelligence, and collaboration. An embodiment of these traits enables leaders to operate more effectively within diverse markets, better connect with diverse outcomes, assess a more diverse spectrum of ideas, and enable diverse individuals in the workforce to reach their full potential.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Let’s dig a little deeper and talk about those traits. Let’s talk about the first two, commitment and courage. We have some old models of the leader as hero, but I don’t sense that that is what you’re talking about, here.

Terri Cooper, Ph.D.

You’re absolutely correct Angelia. Let’s consider commitment, first, because staying the course is hard, and we truly believe that highly inclusive leaders are committed to diversity and inclusion, because these objectives align with their personal values and they believe in the business case. As a result of that, they treat team members with fairness and respect as well as understanding individuals’ uniqueness. They take action to ensure each team member feels connected to the organization. They are able to proactively adapt their work style to meet the needs of these actions. They treat diversity and inclusion as a business priority and take personal responsibility for diverse and inclusive outcomes. They can clearly articulate the value of diversity and inclusion and allocate the resources where needed.

The second trait that you mentioned, Angelia, is courage. Talking about imperfections involves personal risk-taking. Highly inclusive leaders speak up and challenge the status quo, and they’re humble about their strengths and weaknesses. They’re comfortable in acknowledging their personal limitations and will admit to making mistakes, they actively seek the contribution of others to overcome personal limitations, and they approach diversity and inclusion wholeheartedly. As a result, they challenge entrenched organizational attitudes that promote homogeneity, and lastly, they hold others accountable for non-inclusive behaviors.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

The next trait on the list is something that doesn’t show up on every list of leadership qualities. You call it cognizance of bias. What do you mean by that?

Terri Cooper, Ph.D.

Yes, you’re right, but this is perhaps the most important of the six traits, in my opinion. That is because I believe that bias is a leader’s Achilles heel. Cognizance of bias means being aware of your own behavior, how you land on others, and the ability to self-regulate. Highly inclusive leaders are mindful of personal and organizational blind spots and self-regulate to help ensure fair play. They are aware and understand personal biases that enables them to make fair and merit-based decisions about talent. They follow processes to ensure that their personal biases do not influence decisions about others. They identify and address organizational processes that are inconsistent with merit and employ transparent, consistent, and informed decision-making processes. They provide clear explanations of the processes and reasons for decisions made. It’s making the shift from emotional intelligence to emotional maturity that’s really critical when we consider the cognizant bias.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

The next two traits on the inclusive leadership list are curiosity and cultural intelligence. That demands that leaders step outside of themselves and perhaps out of their comfort zones, doesn’t it?

Terri Cooper, Ph.D.

Absolutely. Curiosity is key because we are all aware of the fact that in today’s world different ideas and experiences are crucial to enable growth. Highly inclusive leaders have an open mindset, a desire to understand how others view and experience the world, and a tolerance for ambiguity. Curiosity isn’t passive. It’s very active. Curiosity’s about showing appreciative inquiry, bringing open mindset and true desire to know your people. Leaders that show these traits actively seek the perspective of diverse others in ideation and decision-making. They withhold any fast judgment when engaging with diverse colleagues. They listen attentively when another person is voicing a point of view. They engage in a respectful and curious questioning to better understand others’ viewpoints. They encourage divergent thinking, seeking opportunities to connect with a diverse range of people. This then leads into the importance of cultural intelligence, particularly because not everyone sees the world through the same cultural frame. Highly inclusive leaders are confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions.

What does that mean? What does it take? They demonstrate an active interest in other cultures, seeking information on the local context. They seek out opportunities to experience culturally diverse environments, and they work well with individuals from different cultural backgrounds. They’re able to change their style appropriately when the cross-cultural encounter requires it. They use appropriate verbal and non-verbal behavior in cross-cultural encounters.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

The final trait on the inclusive leadership list is collaboration. This really underscores the idea that the new IQ is based on more than group intelligence. What do you mean by that?

Terri Cooper, Ph.D.

Your comment about the new IQ as being based on group intelligence is key because a diverse thinking team is greater than the sum of its parts. So, highly inclusive leaders empower individuals as well as create and leverage the thinking of diverse groups. They’re able to give team members the freedom to handle difficult situations. They empower team members to make decisions about issues that impact their work. They’re able to assemble teams that are diverse in thinking who respect each other. They anticipate and take appropriate action to address team conflicts when they occur. Perhaps most important of all, they create a safe environment where people feel comfortable to speak up.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

The research report concludes that people can develop these strengths. It isn’t just those who are born with the skill who can be inclusive leaders. How can organizations help people develop into this kind of inclusive leader?

Terri Cooper, Ph.D.

We certainly believe that there are a series of actions that organizations can take to develop inclusive leadership capabilities, and build a culture of inclusion.

The first is strategic alignment. It’s really critical for an organization to highlight inclusive leadership as a core pillar within their diversity and inclusion strategy, for them to be able to articulate a compelling narrative as to why inclusive leadership is critical to business success.

The second is around recruitment. They need to ensure that job advertisements emphasize inclusive leadership capabilities, for example, collaboration and curiosity, and the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The third is around capability and competency management. It’s key that they integrate inclusive leadership capabilities into the organization’s leadership competency model.

Linked to that is performance management. It’s critical that key performance indicators align to inclusive behaviors, and diversity and inclusion outcomes are actually tied into the capability and competency management agenda.

Fifth is around rewards and recognition. It’s important that organizations reward their leaders who demonstrate role-model inclusive behaviors, and showcase these highly inclusive leaders across the organization.

The sixth that we would recommend is aligned around leadership development. It’s critical that we formally assess inclusive leadership capabilities across senior leaders and talent managers and identify individual and organizational development gaps and then create the requirement plans.

Last, but not least, is the seventh, which is around system integration. To integrate inclusive leadership into the organization’s global mobility strategy, in order to help access participant readiness and develop current and future leaders that can work across the entire corporation. We believe that diversity of markets, customers, ideas, and talent is an inescapable part of today’s business environment. When leaders have clarity about what it means to be highly inclusive, through these six signature traits, they are positioned for success.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Dr. Cooper, thank you. This has been a great discussion.

If you want to learn more about the report, The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership, go to www.deloitte.com/insights/inclusion.

Deloitte Digital is also the sponsor of a new HBR podcast, Women at Work. You can find HBR Women at Work wherever you like to download and listen to your favorite podcasts.

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