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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #132: Ten Skills of the Highly Inclusive Leader

April 15, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #132: Ten Skills of the Highly Inclusive Leader

Can you learn to be a more inclusive leader? Is there an inclusive leader skill set? Today, Chris and Perry discuss ten skills you can develop that will lead to a more inclusive approach to leading your team.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell executive leadership podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. I am Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, vice president of the John Maxwell company. Welcome and thank you for joining us. Perry and I absolutely love spending some time just talking about leadership on these podcasts and really talk about what we’re hearing in the field, what is relevant in organizational development and cultures and just bringing some thoughts and some content and Perry continues to bring this to you. He has a learner’s guide that you can download to follow along. If you have a question or a comment, maybe about an organizational need that you have, don’t hesitate to visit John Maxwell And you can leave that comment, that question there, also find the learner’s guide or some more information about the five levels of leadership. Well, we’re continuing this series on becoming an inclusive leader and today’s topic is, I’m going to say it’s five times two, just because I like to give Perry a hard time about the number five, but really, it’s 10 skills of the highly inclusive leader.

And so, we’ve been giving you some philosophical, theoretical ideas. Today, we want to give you 10 skills. Again, simple at times, not simple to live out when you begin thinking about being an inclusive leader. And last time, we talked about this word, this up and coming buzzword about being culturally intelligent and how that can help you and see and understand your people and the differences on your team. An inclusive leader establishes the environment. Remember, we talk about the word culture is how people think, act and interact with each other.

Greg Cagle, one of our executives facilitators, was talking about that recently with one of our clients. And we got to make sure that we understand that where everyone on the team feels like they belong, they feel valued and what they bring to the team is adding value to that team. And I think when that happens, they feel like they’re being treated equitably and they have the tools and the resources needed to grow and improve. So today, we’re going to talk about these 10 skills that Perry has brought to us and we really feel like they’re necessary for you to have in order to be an inclusive leader. Perry, as always, give us just a little bit of context behind why this is on your heart to share with leaders all around the world.

Perry Holley:    Well, I did want to make it five. Trust me I did, but being inclusive, I’m finding is, requires a bit of intentional effort and 10 is probably not even the right number, but I looked at my own life and what I’ve learning and what I’ve observed in others and I wanted to get really more specific on where you as an individual could focus your abilities to make every person on the team, no matter their background, how they identify, which we talked about last week, no matter how they identify that they feel welcome, they feel safe, they feel like they belong, they feel like they’re an insider, not an outsider. And that level of inclusiveness will really magnify the effort you get from a diverse background of people. The value of diversity could be lost if you’re not really using the tools of inclusivity to bring it out. But maybe before we go any further, can you remind us why we’re even looking at… Why we want to be inclusive leaders before we jump into the 10th?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I’d love to do that. Just recap on some of the things we’ve talked about. Let me start by saying this. I love what John Maxwell says about this and he leads the way for us. And he says, “As leaders, here’s three things that we need to understand. We need to value, believe in, and unconditionally love our people.” And I think if you keep that as your focus… Some of you are like, “Chris, you don’t understand. I can’t unconditionally love some of the people I have on my team.” I get it. I understand. Okay? But man, I want you to think about believing in, valuing and unconditionally loving your people and I think it’ll change the lens of what you have and also enlighten you around this inclusivity of leadership. Our teams are more diverse now than ever and they should be and they should continue to go that way.

They should continue to grow in diversity, but we’ve got to get to where we get to this inclusiveness of what they bring to the table. Everyone is different and has a different makeup than myself. Perry and I are different, Jake and I are different. Some of my team members and I and we need to be open to that. We need to also understand that if people don’t feel safe, you brought this question to us in the last episode, so powerful, which is how much courage do people have to be… on my team to be themselves? How much courage do they have to bring to work every day to be themselves? And you shouldn’t have to do that. They shouldn’t have to cover up their true selves because if you do that, we’re going to have these two people in the back of the boat that we joke around about being disengaged, going to three people and four and we’re going the wrong ways.

And so, we want to make sure that they feel safe, that they belong and that they’re their true selves, their authentic selves. We want them to feel like insiders, not outsiders. You use that phrase a lot and how effective is your team when you have people feeling like they’re outsiders? So, those are just some of the thoughts that you and I continue to bounce around back and forth. Some of the common themes we just wanted to share with you, but let’s get started. Let’s give these 10 skills. We’re going to move fairly quick through these 10 of… They’re not all of the skills. These are just 10 skills that I know you’re bringing to us of an inclusive leader.

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Perry Holley:    And I’ll start with number one being self-awareness. And we’ve already talked about that quite a bit a couple of weeks ago, there’s an entire podcast episode on assessing your self-awareness and how you see yourself and how others see you, but you absolutely… you think why would self-awareness make you a more inclusive leader? What are your thoughts on that? Why does self-awareness make you a more inclusive leader?

Chris Goede:     Well, I think if you’re self-aware, you have a growth mindset and you naturally, whether you know it or not, it comes across, you have a degree of humility, right? You’re always willing to grow, you’re learn, you’re curious, you have that humility side and I think when you are self-aware, when you have a high degree, you understand where your, this is your word, the superpower, right? Your strength for the organization, for your team, for whatever, you understand that. You also understand the challenges of which where you need the team around. Lead where you’re strong, team where you’re weak. I think that awareness of yourself has effect on other people. It’s contagious. If they’re like, “Hey, my leader is willing to be vulnerable and be self-aware, I guess it’s okay for me to show up, right? With my dirty laundry as well.”

And I think when that happens, I think that that’s key for the team. And then finally, when you have a high degree in leaders, I think you also, that they’re aware of other’s contributions and presence with the team and acknowledge that and are comfortable with that, that they don’t have to contribute every time. They don’t have to have all of the answers. And so, they allow other people to bring in different conversations, different perspectives, different emotions, and they’re not threatened by it. And I think as leaders, you can get that way, that just shows a great self-awareness. Now, when you have that, and I talked a little bit about this with some degree of humility, the number two thing on our skillsets here is humility, right? I think when you have that self-awareness, it’s going to drive, which is number two on your list, which is humility.

Perry Holley:    Well, I should point out, so I don’t get any letters in the mail, but on the last episode, I said that the number one skill of inclusive leadership was humility, but we had an entire podcast before I said that about self-awareness. That’s why I made self-awareness one and humility fell to number two, because you can be as humble as you want, but if you’re not self-aware, you’re probably doing the humility to build yourself up, not for the right reasons. The motivations would be wrong on that.

But yeah, humility is, I think, a leader superpower. You’ll tend to have that others orientation, you’ll speak less about yourself, more about the people on the team. You’ll generally ask more questions, that will lead to people feeling valued, needed, like they belong. So, I think the humility aspects show up more and more. It’s an attractive quality in that it attracts people to you. Think of the opposite of that being arrogant or full of yourself, or thinking that you have it all, not humble. People are not impressed by that. As a matter of fact, the world is full of that. A humble leader who is confident and self-aware is one that draws people to them and that’s the whole idea about inclusivity is I want you to want to be on this team. I want you to know that you’re valued and a big part of what we’re doing. That opens up number three, we mentioned this a couple of times as well, but curiosity. Are you curious?

Chris Goede:     How many leaders have you worked for where you’re like, “Man, they know everything.” Right? That’s not necessarily a leader that you wanted to follow and be a part of, but I think if you’re curious as leaders and you don’t assume that you know everything, it allows you the ability to ask questions of the team and make sure that you’re allowing the team to teach you something. You’re open to them and their perspective and you’re open to learning a new way of doing things, maybe a new philosophy, maybe a new principal, whatever it might be. I think also when you’re curious, it also creates this feeling for others on your team to where they’re not going to have to come to bring the third degree to prove you wrong. They’re not going to be challenged with something that they’re bringing to the table. They’re not going to continue to have to drive and put effort into the outcomes that they want. They know that you’re going to be open to the fact that this is a team deal and that we want what’s best for the team and you may not have the right way to be able to do that, although, we’re going to be focused on the same outcome. So, that’s number three. Number four, you have courage.

Perry Holley:    Yes. Yeah. When I think it comes to inclusion, courage can be a really big deal. I always struggled with courage as a skill anyway, but what does courage and leadership have to do… it has a little to do with doing the right thing by every individual on your team, but it also has to do with asking the right questions, maybe the uncomfortable questions. I know as an example, in the United States over dealing with a real public discussion about people of color driving and being pulled over by a police officer. I got to tell you from my… how I identify here as an American and a white American and all the things we talk about in our cultural makeup, cultural identity, that just made no sense to me and I… but instead of just giving it no value, I decided, “I need to ask somebody about this. I need to hear from someone, what is about this?”

So as a father myself, it saddened me, really angered me and so, I decided to start a conversation with a person of color on my team and another in my circle of influence, just to say, “What is the truth about this?” I was scared that I was going to ask a wrong question, I was going to say something wrong. I was afraid I might infer something the wrong way, but I decided that it required a risk for me if I was going to learn something about the people close to me. They were experiencing something that I had no clue about. The outcome of this was incredibly eye-opening. It maddened me and saddened me even more to learn what some of the situations going on in our country and I think we’re starting to address some of those, but you can never do enough.

It’s just continuing to work on that. But I had to… To me, it was hard and I thought, “How much courage do I require to really understand people?” If I’m humble and open and curious, will my courage, will it be well received? And I just decided that’s what courage is about. It’s about doing what you think is the right thing. I sat with a friend for quite a number of hours and talked about the fears he has with his teenage boys and sending them out even to go to the store in the car and that they call and check in. From my cultural come from are not issues, are enormously big family issues to them. So courage, I think, shows up in a lot of places. I’d love you to add anything on how you see courage as a leader, but that’s one of the things that is a little soft sometimes about, where does courage show up? But to me in this area of inclusive leadership and understanding identities and how people show up, I’m generally going to see people like me. I don’t think anythings going on, but if my courage will allow me to ask the right questions, I can learn a lot.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And I think where it comes in is you have to get out of your comfort zone, right? I mean, if we’re going to be inclusive leaders, if we’re going to believe in value and unconditionally love all people, which is what we’re calling for, then I absolutely think that you have to get out of your comfort zone and that takes courage, they don’t want to do that. What I love about the story and the illustration, it goes right into number five, that you actually have listed out here, when we’re talking about what are skills for becoming a highly inclusive leader? Which is listening and I think that story just illustrates the fact that not only do we have to have courage to get out of our comfort zones, but then we’ve got to listen. I know that’s hard to believe for some people, right?

They want to do all the talking. But I think man, some of the greatest compliments you could get as a leader is that you are intentionally listening to your people. Like, “Hey man, when I was talking to so-and-so, it feels like nothing else is going on around them and they are definitely dialed in and trying to learn something about what they’re hearing. Not to respond, but to learn.” And you’ve included a quote here from Larry King where he says, “I never learned anything while I was talking.” And I know a lot of people that must not have learned anything in their life because they do a whole lot of talking. But that’s really the point, right? What are you trying to learn from your teammates? Their experiences? Their stories? Their biases at time? What are you trying to learn through listening to understand them better and where they’ve come from? Number six, we’ll go to number six. This is something we introduced and talked a little bit about last episode, which is cultural intelligence.Perry Holley:    Yeah. Cultural intelligence or understanding somebody’s cultural identity. We have a whole podcast on that, that you can check out, but with diversity comes a team of people that are not like me and we determined that that was a good thing, but to be inclusive, I need to understand how to lead in a way that makes everyone on the team feel included, valued, safe, like they belong, an insider. And to do this, something that I think people get messed up a little bit about, I actually must see the differences. I must see that there’s a difference between me and others on my team. Everybody is not like me and I need to respect those differences and learn to lean into that and understand those differences. There’s a requirement on me to learn more about the differences that we have. So, cultural ability is that ability to relate to and work effectively with a diverse group of individuals. So, it’s highly important that you take cultural intelligence seriously and do what you can to build up your own. number seven, which is teachable. One of my favorite words.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I think when you’re teachable, this is something that if you lead by example, communicates to your team that, man, you need them. Listen, as a leader, the last thing I want to do is go into meetings and have all the answers. I mean, that’s exhausting, right? Especially when it’s not in your superpower as you call it. And so, you have to be teachable. You have to be open to that. Let your team know that you want their point of view, you want their knowledge. I’ve used this illustration previously in a podcast where John says, “Look, I’m going to bring an idea to the table and I want these eight people in the meeting and if we leave the meeting and this idea is not better than when I brought it, these eight people aren’t coming back in the meeting.” I mean, we want John, even at 73 years old right now goes in with a desire to learn and teachable about different things. And so, all of us is smarter than just one of us. And so, be teachable and be curious, ask more questions because great things come from a team that is led by teachable leaders. Well, number eight, that brings us to empathy on your list.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. I feel if you embrace the first seven and feel you’re doing well in this category, but you lack empathy, you will risk making others feel judged or feel sorry for them in some way, which is sympathy and this will cause people to shut down in your presence, to hold back their authentic self. Having empathy and putting yourself in other people’s shoes is that you show compassion and understanding, free from judgment and shame. I think that’s the key for me is that just because we’re different, we have different cultural identities. We have different backgrounds where it’s a very diverse operation here going on with the team, I can still put myself in your shoes and not… I think the worst thing you can do is make somebody feel judged or feel shame for anything that’s going on and that will cause them to shut down. So, you’ve lost all inclusivity if you can’t put empathy into the mix.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    Which leads to number nine, which is a fancy word, I’m going to throw it to you, mindfulness. Tell me how you see mindfulness.

Chris Goede:     I mean, I think about, sometimes we do opposites on this. I go, “Man, oblivious, right?” Wouldn’t that be opposite of this right here as a leader? Are you completely oblivious to everything that we’ve just talked about? The first eight skills that we’ve talked about today of being an inclusive leader and man, if you’re not following up on that, you are oblivious to what’s going on and I think a mindfulness leader is about being in the moment and highly aware. And as you begin thinking about some of these skills that Perry’s bringing to us and you build upon one another, man, I think you’re going to be able to see the complete picture. There’s different things going on with people and in their personal life and their professional life. I loved a couple of episodes that you talked about the iceberg, right? The tip of it, common picture that everybody has.

Well, we spend more time with people at work than we do people in our personal life and so, you need to understand this, whatever’s going on personally, remember, as an inclusive leader, you should be aware of that. You should be having conversations because they’re bringing that to work and you should be mindful of that. You should be aware and staying and knowing all the details of your people. You’re like, “Man, that’s a lot going on. I ain’t got time.” Listen, you signed up to be a leader, right? It comes with a little bit of extra and that’s just part of it. If you want to be an inclusive leader, that’s what we’re talking about here, then I think this is such a powerful word, in being mindful of the landscape of which your team is bringing to the table. Well, the last one and I love this word. Number 10, generosity. Talk to us about it Perry.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, I probably could get arguments about including it as a skill, but I believe it is a choice. Generosity to me is one of life’s most precious virtues, that when you’re a generous person, people are drawn to your kindness, your spirit of giving and that means giving of your time, your attention, your resources, to help and serve others. When I think of how to make people feel that they belong, it often comes down to a culture of generosity that exists in the workplace and not just the boss being generous to the team with tools and resources and attention and help, but teammates being generous with each other and setting up that culture that way.

And not just tangible things, but you’re generous with honor, you’re generous with recognition, you’re generous with respect, you’re generous with trust. So much just that flows from kindness. You think, “I want to be an inclusive leader.” And you’re not generous with things that people value in their spirit and their soul, you’re really building little small barriers that are going to be hard for people to get around from time to time. And I really like this word as well. I think, to me, it says a lot about a leader who can be generous and not need the attention all on them. They’re giving, they’re not always receiving.

Chris Goede:     Man. I appreciate that. I love this list. And as we wrap up, let me… I’m going to review the 10 with you really quick, just in case you missed one, you want to write it down or you’re following along in the guide. Just a couple of comments that come to mind. Remember, we’re all in the people business. I didn’t say a particular type of person, gender, right? Any of that stuff. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the manufacturing world, doesn’t matter, we are all in the people business and going back to how I started this off with what John says, “Are we going to value, believe in and unconditionally love people?” And what I love about this list that you’ve created for us right here, Perry, is that if we think about these skillsets and they are skillsets that can be developed, there are learned behaviors. And as we learn more and more about people and trying to get inclusivity of every single person on our team, if you understand how they’re wired, which comes a lot from assessments, which we talked about in session one around self-awareness also, if you understand that, you understand there are learned behaviors.

And then we talked a little bit last time about their values and you understand what their values are. If you understand those three things and you understand we’re in the people business and we’re going for inclusivity, these 10 skills that you brought to us, they’re not the 10, they’re 10. They’re not the 10. There are 10, you may have some others, but man, these are so important to creating that culture of inclusivity inside your organization. Number one, self-awareness, starts with you. Number two, humility. Three is curious. Four is courage. Five is you got to be a good listener. Six is cultural intelligence. Seven is teachable. Eight is empathy. Nine, I love this word, are you mindful? Mindfulness of your people and the scenarios and the situations personally and professionally. And then finally, as we wrap up and as you did for us today on the 10 skills of highly inclusive leader, number 10 generosity. Man Perry, I really appreciate bringing this list to us.

Perry Holley:    My pleasure and thank you for commenting on it and thank you all for joining, as Chris mentioned earlier, the John Maxwell webpage can give you access to the learner guide, which has all the guides for the episodes, as well as a place for you to leave questions or comments or learn more about the five levels of leadership and about the 360 degree leader. We’re grateful that you would spend the time with us. That’s all today from the John Maxwell executive leadership podcast.

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