Opinion Piece: Inclusive Leadership
Inclusive Leadership is a relatively new term to me despite the notion of it being around for some time.
Being involved in a sporting career of nearly 15 years, I would like to think I know a fair bit about leadership. I have seen some amazing leaders on the sporting field that have the courage to lead with their convictions, speak their truths openly and have people willing to follow them into the depths of battle. Leaders inspire. Leaders lead. That’s the traditional view I always held around leadership, but since I started working with Inclusion Solutions almost two years ago, my perception of leadership has changed.
I was passed on an interesting article last week around this very topic by the Diversity Council of Australia that resonated with how I see my own style of leadership. In addition to my role as a Sport and Recreation Consultant at Inclusion Solutions, I have also been actively involved as a female football coach for the past three years. The article described the five key mindsets of being an inclusive leader: Identity Aware, Relational, Open, Flexible and Growth-Focused. At first, these seemed like buzzwords used to describe a leader’s growth and evolution, but the more I look back on my role as a coach and the relationships I have with people in the inclusion sector, it became a little more than that. As I said, it started to resonate with me.
In a team, every individual contributes their own distinct experiences, reflecting their identity and talents. Recognising and appreciating the unique individuality, talents, and assets that each person brings to your organisation is crucial for achieving optimal performance. As a leader, it takes relationship building, opening yourself up and being vulnerable to ensure someone feels a sense of belonging and feels a connection to what you are trying to achieve as that visionary, that leader. For me, the idea of being vulnerable was a scary proposition as a leader. It wasn’t the norm and I grew up in a time where my grandfather didn’t talk about his feelings. It was seen as a sign of weakness and the one thing you didn’t want to do was to show people you were weak. I see being vulnerable now as a key to being a strong leader. A strong, inclusive leader who understands the importance of being human and not fearing the judgement of making mistakes but learning, growing and evolving.
I see the same leadership traits in the Inclusion Consultants I work with, which is a constant source of inspiration, motivating me every day to continue to push something I believe so strongly in.
A colleague in the inclusion industry once said to me that inclusion should be part of our everyday business, not just a one-off program or a portfolio assigned to an inclusion officer who’s left to carry the fight on their own. It’s easy to say that leadership starts at the top and to some point I agree with this. But what happens when it’s the top of your organisation that needs education around inclusion, or to understand that inclusive practices can have so many benefits – not only to your organisation but the clubs as well. This is when I see true inclusive leaders stand up. The inclusion officers who continue to push the importance to their CEO’s and boards. The officers who are so passionate about ensuring all people of all abilities have the opportunities presented to them. The officers who can see that inclusion should be everyday business. That’s inclusive leadership to me.