Inclusive leaders understand their identities, privileges, and biases, and recognize how they have shaped how they view the world and the people around them. They employ that understanding to take a staunch stance against even the subtlest forms of prejudice and discrimination. They model the way for others to stand up to discrimination and inequity through their words and actions. Inclusive leaders are committed to the work of allyship. They align themselves in solidarity with marginalized groups and use their resources and social capital to help speed their impact.
But leadership is uncomfortable by nature. If you aren’t pushing yourself to do more and encouraging others around you to do the same, then chances are you aren’t doing enough. One of the most important qualities of an inclusive leader is resilience—persisting in the face of risk. The true measure of leadership is not how an individual performs during the good times, but rather the strength, fortitude, and courage they display during times of crisis and uncertainty.
Creating workplaces that are more equitable and inclusive is needed now more than ever. We have a unique opportunity to construct a different, better future. I believe that we each have the capacity to effect change, especially if we are leaders and have been sitting on the sidelines. Every single one of us is needed—not just to register our good intentions on paper or social media, but to actually do the work necessary for real change. We each have spheres of influence, and we leave much on the table every day when we don’t see our role in driving change.
It’s also important to remember that change takes time. Leaders love shortcuts and quick fixes, but change doesn’t always work like that. If you’re actively working to drive change, you have to be patient. I think a lot about failing forward, the agility and flexibility of getting feedback, adjusting, and trying again. What’s most important is to keep trying, to keep moving forward. Inclusive leadership isn’t a goal or a destination; it’s the embracing of a journey, where skills are built, day by day, experience by experience.