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Six Lessons to Prepare Inclusive Leaders of Tomorrow

Six Lessons to Prepare Inclusive Leaders of Tomorrow

Recent incidents across the world have led to heartbreak, uncertainty, and the stark inequality between humans. It is in such times that we can all seize the moment to be thoughtful about behaviors we are demonstrating for our children and future leaders. How you treat the younger generation today will determine how they will shape as inclusive leaders of tomorrow.

Below are six lessons I have found to be imperative to shaping future inclusive leaders.

[Related: Four Approaches to Opening the Hard Conversations About Racism, Antiracism, Advocacy, and Allyship]

1) Respect people who look and think different.

The values of a child are shaped early, and fully-formed personalities start manifesting in teenage years. I have heard so many people say that the older they get, the closer they feel and act based on their values and principles that were molded at a young age.

We can be role models for the youth by volunteering in the community and showing respect to people who are different. Remember, emerging leaders need to be comfortable working with people who don’t look and think like them to become naturally inclusive and build trust with one another.

2) Engage in multigenerational conversations.

All of the experiences and life lessons from those older than us will be lost or forgotten soon. There is tremendous value in understanding different perspectives of why people of a different generation act a certain way and the value-based decisions they make.

Decisions taken by one generation can have a profound impact on the next generation. This type of engagement can help to take a step back and understand what traditions are worth carrying on and what needs to change. Leaders need to relate to a multigenerational workforce and build a culture that brings together a disparate group of people in the pursuit of a common mission.

3) Nurture curiosity.

Ever feel uncomfortable answering questions about diversity and inclusion? Gaining exposure to different cultures and experiencing flavors of the world through food, traveling, and exploring new places can make one more aware and cognizant about diversity at a young and impressionable age.

If you are naturally curious and want to learn, you will take the time to educate yourself about implicit bias in your workplace actively instead of being asked to learn and comply. Employees appreciate the efforts leaders make to understand and embrace their unique culture. Showcase how you’re nurturing curiosity in your life and make it acceptable with the next generation.

[Related: Be the Change: A Multi-Part Framework]

4) Rethink kindergarten lessons.

Kindergarteners get used to school routines, practice working together in groups to build teamwork, and learn sharing skills. This discipline teaches them to be successful students for years to come.

It is easy to have a tendency to stay with the same set of people who think like us, but it is important to share and learn from different people. A leader should have the ability to work with and inspire interconnected identities and influences, such as race, class, culture, economic status, age, gender, and sexual orientation. Let’s encourage those kindergarten lessons not only with future leaders, but with ourselves.

5) Build cooperation through sports.

Taking the time to cultivate interest in at least one team sport where individual achievement is not enough to win can teach priceless lessons of leadership. Champions and winning teams are created through vision, discipline, practice, resilience, and passion to achieve success.

Adapting to address your challenges helps build an agile mindset early in life, preparing leaders to combine the individual strengths of team members, which is essential to inclusive teams.

6) Encourage give and take.

In Give and Take, Adam Grant, an award-winning researcher and Wharton’s highest-rated professor, examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom.

He says in today’s reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. When we offer to help people and show kindness, they help us in ways that are far more valuable than what we actually offered. An inclusive leader needs to give by supporting, coaching, and helping teams to succeed. When leaders become role models, they spark enthusiasm and confidence to support the vision of the group.

[Related: In Search of You, Chief Empathy Officer]


Roopa Maniktala is a Marketing and Communications Leader with global business experience at IBM. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, work culture, and advancing children and women with technology.

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