Foster inclusive leadership and culture

The common business principle, “leaders cast a long shadow,” suggests that a company’s culture, practices, and general operating standards are influenced by what a leader says, does, prioritizes, measures, promotes, and validates. . Given the power and privileges they often possess, it is imperative for business leaders, among other key strengths, to be strategic, intentional, innovative, adaptive, and inclusive to drive success.

Sharoni Denise Little

Being inclusive is an active process. It involves creating and maintaining norms, practices and an environment centered on equity, respect, access and opportunity. Inclusive industries – and the companies that exemplify these values ​​- ensure that they have created a welcoming and equitable workplace, where the inherent value, dignity and well-being of all is recognized and valued, with each experiencing a genuine sense of belonging and opportunity to succeed.

As an avid sports fan and DEI researcher, I know that the very nature of sport embodies the spirit of inclusion with collegiality, collaboration, engagement, communication and healthy competition at its heart. Like sport, to establish and maintain an inclusive culture, leaders and businesses must engage authentically, create the conditions, foster core skills, practice and train regularly, and ultimately execute as a team. Given its significant influence on popular culture, the sports industry can positively model and shape global perceptions and practices.

Sports leaders should:

Apply an equity lens to assess all company systems, practices and behaviors, including hiring, compensation, promotion, retention and leadership composition, to uncover and mitigate biases, isolation, “loneliness” and all practices of exclusion that can create a toxic and psychological atmosphere. unsafe work environment, including regularly reviewing company data to assess inclusion metrics.

Foster cultural practices that value and leverage the unique and multifaceted contributions of a diverse workforce, avoiding messages of assimilation and practices that seek conformance and conformance, often under the vague concept of “fit cultural”.

Engage employees at all levels of the organization to assess their overall sense of belonging and psychological safety. Ask questions that can address feelings and experiences about equitable access and opportunity, being listened to respectfully, and fully seen. Ask where they see themselves represented within the company; within their department/division; within their team, league or agency management; and among customers, customers, fans, suppliers and partners.

Recognize that multiple aspects of identity are important when it comes to fostering an equitable and inclusive culture. Keep in mind that authentic performance isn’t just “added” to a proverbial room or given a seat at the table. If power dynamics and status quo systems constrain, silence and/or render invisible, such practices are performative. True visibility and voice arise when leaders and organizations design systems and structures that authentically value diverse perspectives, cultures, and experiences, without expecting conformity or acclimation. They regularly assess who participates, speaks, presents and leads in all aspects of their company’s operations and makes necessary changes to improve fairness.

More information

As you continue your DEI journey, there are many books, movies, podcasts readily available. I’ve included some suggestions below.

“Crip Camp: a revolution for people with disabilities”

“The Alone in the Room” a podcast by Laura Cathcart Robbins

“We Are Not Equal Yet: Understanding Our Racial Divide,” by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden

Recognize and mitigate any form of cognitive, behavioral and systemic biases that may limit an individual’s contribution, excellence and sense of belonging. One form of behavioral bias is microaggression, which can manifest in many ways. For example, we should avoid saying to someone from a historically marginalized or underrepresented racial, gender, or class group, “You are so articulate.” Although the underlying intention may be complementary, one must understand and recognize the dominant perceptions associated with certain identity groups around limited intellectual and persuasive capacities, involving an offensive feeling of surprise or exception.

Invest in company-wide ongoing professional development training that includes cultural and emotional intelligence, self-awareness, empathy, and mitigating bias.

While striving to be an inclusive leader and foster an equitable culture is complex, and sometimes difficult, it is essential, especially in the vast global sports industry. Leaders can achieve their inclusion goals by making it a personal and ongoing journey. They can ensure that their stated values, practices and standards are transparent and consistent.

Sharoni Denise Little, Ph.D./Ed.D., is head of global inclusion strategy at Creative Artists Agency.

Helen D. Jessen