This week, I reflected on the fact that over the last three years, in leading Above Difference, my expert facilitators and I have facilitated workshops with over 3,000 leaders across the public and community sector.
I still never tire of what we fondly call the “lightbulb moments” and the excitement I see on the faces of leaders who leave our Masterclasses with a better understanding of how they can make a difference to the lived experiences of their diverse teams, peers and colleagues. They get the “how to make inclusion work”.
As an Inclusive Leadership and Cultural Intelligence facilitator, leadership coach and speaker, I know that the best theories/models in the world mean nothing, if they do not engender a deep personal transformation that in turn, creates leaders who walk away feeling empowered, engaged and aware of their own ‘power and influence’ in creating inclusive spaces where everyone feels valued. Leadership, John Maxwell says, “is all about influence, nothing more, nothing less and everything rises and falls on leadership”.
Leaders play a key role in creating the ‘feel’ of spaces where individuals of all backgrounds work. Wittingly or unwittingly, they create or facilitate team and departmental cultures. As Edgar Schein says “The only thing of real importance that leaders do is create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this happening”.
These cultures, shaped and facilitated by leaders, are unelected rulers of the workplace. They define who belongs and who doesn’t, who thrives and who just survives in the workplace.
Often, the most powerful moment in our programmes is when a leader realises the power of these visible and invisible ‘cultures’ and the potential they have as leaders to shape and influence them. When they realise, that by having a limited view of what the word ‘culture’ encompasses, they can limit their own ability to be effective, inclusive leader. Inclusive leaders are grown, not just sown and watching those seeds germinate and green shoots appear is as they say, a blast!
Yet the best thing about every leadership programme and Masterclass I facilitate is the learning that I take away from the diverse leaders I get to engage with. Over the last three years, that learning has led me to Five Value Proposition Statements that now underpin all the work Above Difference undertakes with our partners and clients.