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In the past year, I’ve often heard the word accountability associated with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
Many leaders feel pressure to give an opinion and speak up on every issue in the news cycle. Employees—particularly colleagues of color, women, and younger co-workers—expect their leaders to understand and deal with social justice challenges. they ask:
Add to the complexity around the divergent risks and impacts of Covid-19, vaccinations, and use of masks, and we’ve got quite the accountability storm.
Our relationships with our employees and peers are now compressed like never before. For many of us – especially those from privileged backgrounds – it’s a shock. Some of us mumble to ourselves: I never expected to drive through DEI like this before.
Let’s take a look at the reason for these new expectations of us as leaders.
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The reasons for this new accountability for DEI
Powerful trends are driving this leadership redefinition toward inclusive leadership. These trends are lasting effects, and will accelerate in the future.
The 2020 census revealed America’s demographic fate. Currently, Americans 18 and younger are a mutual minority. The multi-ethnic population is expanding. We ignore these aspects of segmentation in our talent strategy and customer contact at our own risk.
metro over rural areas
56% of all people now live in or near cities, and the United Nations projects that roughly 70% will do so within 30 years. This requires that we understand urban areas and focus on rural markets appropriately. City dwellers, by definition, are more diverse, and their dynamic cultures challenge our ability to succeed geographically.
Global markets and supply chains
The ability to buy, sell and service across national borders is vital. Working with cultural and language differences is a new standard for many industries and in organizations of all sizes. And people from all over the world come to our geographic markets, so we don’t have to sell “overseas” to our organizations in order to go global.
Almost every business now relies on using technology to operate; Globally, technology increases efficiency and connection speed. Prospects read about your company on Glassdoor, customers watch the news to see how committed you are to diversity, ethical sourcing and the fight against climate change, and employees argue about DEI in internal forums.
Past trends as well as increased educational attainment are fueling the voice and agency of people who are tired of having disadvantages tied to their identities: women globally in the #MeToo movement, African Americans and those of other persecuted racial identities, and younger generations concerned about climate change. , the LGTBQ community and many more who are looking for social justice.
What is an accountable and inclusive leader to do in such a chaotic world, when you have business to run and goals to achieve?
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Three ways to escalate
First, accept and affirm that all leaders must become inclusive leaders, including you.
Accountability is being personally accountable for the ways you build trust, especially across differences in identities. Ask your employees for their ideas to help the company become more responsive to society’s unmet needs. Revamp your leadership development curriculum so that every leader in your company understands that inclusion is expected, supported, and valued.
Invest clearly in deepening your view of DEI.
Engage with the employee resource group. Check with colleagues honestly and calmly when current events may affect them or their loved ones personally. Learn how to talk about issues publicly and relate your understanding to the organization’s values. It is not enough to grow especially, as important as it is. There is a balance to be struck between ally theater and people’s need to see you lead with DEI publicly. This includes recovering gracefully from mistakes and errors, because perfection is not always achievable.
Build your brand as an overall leader, by improving systems and culture.
Your leadership brand is how people see you and choose to follow you. They will do so because university leaders focus on reducing bias and creating opportunity in hiring and advancement decisions. Inclusive leaders are accountable and deliver results. Affiliate work must not be performative (i.e. dishonest, superficial, or for the sake of appearances).
Are you establishing a reputation for managing a team with a healthy mix of people? Do you retain talent because people feel a sense of belonging and community? Comprehensive leadership will make your brand refine.
Inclusive leaders do not resist the new accountability. Instead, we explore how stresses in DEI can revitalize our jobs, deliver results, and grow our culture. Our employees ask us to answer the ways we build trust.
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