Leadership

How to tell if you are an inclusive leader

Discover the six traits of inclusive leadership, and the leaders who embody them.

By Fiona Smith

 

Deloitte’s Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon outlined the six traits of inclusive leaders, and identified individuals who embody those characteristics. 

Commitment 

Simon Rothery, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs in Australia and New Zealand, wondered if his staff were really hearing his message about the importance of diversity. So he decided to earmark a place for diversity in every significant “communication moment”. Now, whether he’s talking to new employees, the media, or his staff, he makes sure to include diversity as one of the five key messages he wants to impart. It’s a deliberate strategy to ensure his message gets heard. 

Courage 

When the then chief executive of Telstra, David Thodey, announced in 2013 that all 37,000 job roles at the telco would be able to be worked on a “flexible” basis, he changed the business landscape. At the time it was regarded as a very bold move to allow employees to decide when and where they work, but Telstra has since been joined by the Australian Securities Exchange, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the ANZ bank and Network Ten. Thodey was also willing to talk about his own failings. He detailed how when he was working at IBM in 2000, diversity trainer Jane Elliott had showed up how unaware he was of his privilege as a powerful, tall, white male. He was excruciatingly embarrassed, but says it was one of the most important points of his career, as it made him reflect and start thinking about diversity.  

Awareness of self-bias 

Mike Henry, President Operations, Minerals Australia at BHP Billiton, says he is aware that recruitment is a vulnerable moment for him. “I am very clear about the type of person I gravitate to when hiring. Consciously, I put all sorts of checks and balances in place with respect to the thinkers I gravitate to. There have been times when I have overridden my opinion with others’ advice, and it has worked out spectacularly.” 

Curiosity

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, chief executive of Mirvac, sits with the staff on a different floor every week so she can connect with people directly and hear what is happening around them. She deliberately finds and retells stories to demonstrate to others tangible situations in which “the inclusion of someone’s opinion has changed the outcome for the better”.

Cultural intelligence

Lieutenant Colonel (now Colonel) Kahlil Fegan, the commanding officer of the Australian Army’s Mentoring Task Force 4 based in Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, took command of more than 800 military personnel and responsibility for 3000 Afghan soldiers in the Uruzgan province in 2012. In the previous task force (MTF-3), four soldiers had died, three of them at the hands of the Afghan soldiers. Fegan says the reasons he managed to get all his soldiers back home after their six-month tour were: the diversity of his team, breaking down the traditional divisions between units and corps to make them work as one team, and efforts to be more inclusive of the Afghan soldiers and tribes. “We needed leaders at all levels who appreciated different opinions, concepts, cultures and ideas,” he says.

Collaboration

Sir Ralph Norris, the former Commonwealth Bank chief executive, would encourage his executives to go out to lunch with each other. “He would say ‘you and you need to go and eat’, so when they brought different opinions into the room, they already had a foundation of respect and understanding, and could find ways to work together. It was very impressive,” says Rhonda Brighton-Hall, a former HR executive at the bank.

Sources: Fast Forward: Leading in a Brave New World of Diversity by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon and “The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership” by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon, Deloitte University Press

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