If an organization is going to embark on a sustainable journey to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, it must begin with courageous leadership. DEI work challenges our experiences, perspectives, and comfort zones, and requires leaders to be bold and act with integrity through their values and from the courage of their convictions.
An organization must define not only what it means by DEI internally, but also what it is trying to accomplish by aligning its policies, procedures, and practices through an equity lens.
Leaders must be strategic and thoughtful in how they respond and intentional in decision-making when the data may show disparities in certain areas of the organization.
But how does one become a courageous leader?
Many people assume that a leader is a CEO or president, director, or other administrative authority within the organizational chart. But anyone can lead from where they are on issues about which they have a strong conviction such as equity. At Teamer Strategy Group, we define a leader as anyone who holds themselves accountable for finding the potential in other people and developing that potential.
Courageous leadership can be built by practicing four skills.
Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure. If we want braver leaders, we must cultivate a culture where people are willing to do hard things, have difficult conversations, fail, recover, and start again. As a leader, we must first embrace those things ourselves. All courageous leaders have had to endure some level of risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure.
2. Clarity of Values
Clarity of values means having a clear understanding of what is important to you and what you stand for. There are several assessments and values lists available online that can help individuals to identify and define their core values. A person may have a few core values that guide their life or may have different values for different areas, such as family and work. Having clarity of values can help you make decisions that are consistent with your beliefs and goals, which can lead to greater satisfaction and fulfillment both personally and professionally. The important thing is to begin to understand the values that motivate us and to act in alignment with them.
Without trust, creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace is not possible. Trust is essential for open conversations, acknowledging privilege, and reassessing the traditional ways of doing things.
Trust is built through small moments of vulnerability in a relationship developed over time and comes from choosing courage over comfort. Being a trusting and trustworthy leader means being someone people can count on to do what you say you will do, including acting within your competencies and limitations. Courageous leaders own their mistakes, make amends, and move forward.
4. Rising Skills
Rising skills, or upskilling, means learning new and enhanced skills that relate to your current role or a future role. It can be thought of as “leveling up” your skills. Rising skills is an intentional learning process focused on closing gaps and gaining deeper knowledge faster through skills development courses, certifications, or mentorship programs. Through reflection or assessments, individuals can identify what knowledge, skills, or aptitudes they may be missing or need to strengthen to step into their next official role or to take on the mantle of courageous leadership in an area aligned with their values.
Are you a courageous leader?
Courageous leadership is a continuous journey and practice, and an option we can choose at every decision point.
As you reflect on courageous leadership, consider the following questions:
What skills do you feel comfortable with in your present courageous leadership journey? Which skills do you feel you may need to strengthen?
Think of a time when as a leader there was risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure involved. How did you handle that experience? What was the outcome? What did you learn?
What are your top or core values? What is most important to you?
How do you define and build trust as a leader?
Consider a time when trust was compromised in a relationship, how did you handle that situation?
Think about your present role, what area do you feel you need to either brush up on a skill or learn a new skill?