I used to think of leadership as a hierarchical process where there is a leader who has more power and authority to control everything or make any decision as he/she pleases.
Also, I always thought of a leader in an organization as an authoritative person and members as followers who should always follow whatever the leader says or tells them to do. It was just recently when taking this course, EDEA 360, that I came to realize the dynamic of leadership nature and what kind of leadership paradigm most effectively needed in this contemporary society is evolving from time to time. Reading through the first half of the textbook, “Exploring Leadership” which is used in the course, I found several significant arguments such as what leadership really means in this modern world and what kind of leaders needed in this ever-changing world. And most importantly and to my amazement I discovered a newly constructed definition about leadership, which I have never had a chance to learn nor had I been taught about it before, and that is “relational leadership”. I was and will always be inspired by this new paradigm of leadership. Chapter three of the textbook deals specifically with “The Relational Leadership Model” and one of the elements that helps shitting my personal view on leadership is inclusiveness. Therefore, through this post I will explore three aspects that prospect leaders should know in order to become an inclusive leader and those aspects include valuing multiple views, respecting diversity and taking chances.
a) Valuing Multiple Views
Inclusiveness is the most powerful element of Relational Leadership that I personally feel comfortable with because it highly values various perspective from all individuals, regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they believe, and so forth, to be included in the decision making process. I have always valued the idea that any approach towards solving a problem requires multiple perspectives that can provide tentative solutions from diverse angles. Why is this important? The answer is because various perspectives helps shape the tentative solution to become a much more effective and accepted solution; a solution that benefits the whole community or represents their voices in a given society. Therefore, and in order to produce that kind of solution it very much requires inclusive leaders who value various ways in an organization. Being an inclusive leader means opening yourself to a variety of people with different strengths and backgrounds. It also means taking a step back and realizing that no one “type” best fits the leadership mold. For instance, in my reflection paper I talked about inclusive leadership as one body with many parts and that every part has specific function (s) to function the whole body. In other words, if one part doesn’t function well then it may paralyze the body and make other parts suffer. The same way goes to leadership practice in the community. Community leaders should include all existed elements and members both in the decision making process and program implementation in order to arrive in the planned goals. Moreover, inclusive Leadership is about relationships that can accomplish things for mutual benefit.
Reaching leadership at this next level means “doing things with people, rather than to people,” which is the essence of inclusion. Improving decision making and achieving desired ends are among its goals, without relying on one person’s capabilities alone. It also provides an atmosphere that promotes fairness of input and output to all.
b) Respecting Diversity
Often, diversity is viewed unconstructively by mindset of some societal members as a social dilemma that needs an immediate solution for it. In a more advanced society and a globalized world, however, the understanding of diversity is subsequently evolving, given more and more people are increasingly aware of benefits diversity offers especially in the organizational landscape. Modern organization and society perceive “diversity more than just a program of hiring a few people of different gender or ethnic backgrounds or allowing a few diverse opinions to surface from time to time”. It seeks to reveal the uniqueness, strengths and talents of all people of all kinds. This is crucial in promoting collective thoughts necessarily required by leaders of any organization to manage and even tackle the complexity of problems in a much more efficient manner.
In its simple definition diversity is basically understood as a mixture of diverse people of different colors, personalities, attitudes, capabilities, sexes, and skills. Referring to the above picture you can see just from their physical settings how diverse they are. If you can further explore their potentialities from inside you will be amazed at how each of them has uniquely gifted qualities. With this, it’s in no doubt to ascertain that by deploying people with multiple talents in a given organization can be a worthwhile approach towards achieving desirable goals, while maximizing inclusive participation of all members. Leaders in the organization are, therefore, better off listen more and speak less to their subordinates that way they can allow themselves to carefully analyze every possible solution, valuable idea, mutual suggestion, and constructive criticism brought up by each member. Diversity highly values acceptance, indiscrimination, and transparency, which aims at encouraging peripherals to better explore their born-with skills and knowledge and to freely express what they feel necessary for the organizational improvement. When diversity is very much valued in an organization, members of the organization will depict more responsibilities, exercise more cooperation in the workplace with their colleagues, keep the organizational privacy, and promote more of the achievements of organization to outside people because they feel proud being inclusive members of the association. Once all members in the organization take for granted that their differences are viewed as resources for their unity, they will fell more obliged to construct cultural bridges to allow them learn cross cultural understanding.
President Barak Obama is an example of the most recent inclusive leader I have ever met and whom I always admire. His multiple identities clearly indicates he is a man of all kinds of people and his leadership paradigm shows he values the importance of diversity in organizational life, or for that matter, in a nation. He believes he is alone can never make changes happen, nor can he alone turn the United States and its people to the right direction that every American had hoped for in years. In Obama’s eyes, every citizen of America, black, white, brown, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hawaiian, Alaskan, and so forth is unified as one: “the people of America”, the phrase he always uses. For him, these people are the country’s resources to make the changes happen. Given the fact the United States is the most diverse place in the world, Mr. Obama would encourage all American to collectively build cultural bridges with each other, realizing that diversity awareness is a not an event but a growth-oriented and life-long process. I was and am always inspired by his inauguration speech where he always chose to use the subject of “we”, instead of “I”. Only in few sentences that he used “I” but his entire speech was built with the word “we”. When hear him saying this subject, “we”, repeatedly, I am as an outsider can always feel inclusive. Bellow some quotations of part of his speech.
“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord”. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
“We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do”.
Although it might be too early to judge his capability in bringing this country to a more prosper nation, but I personally can assure that he will encourage and empower citizens of American to work hand in hand and collectively because he values every citizen’s unique talents can make a significant difference in the country.
c) Taking Chances and Time
Recognizing talent is one thing. Appreciating it and putting it to use is another. Inclusive leadership requires a true commitment to using all of your group members well rather than just those who are known to you. And this can be tough since many of us have that human tendency to turn to the tried and true folks when things get hectic. Therefore, you’re going to need to take some chances! By purposefully soliciting the perspectives of quieter students and delegating to emerging leaders rather than those with expertise, you are sending the message that all of your members have leadership potential.
The differences among your group members are probably very pronounced. The extroverts in your group may jump in regularly whenever discussion ensues while the introverts may make their points more selectively. Some strong female leaders may volunteer for everything, leaving some male leaders to feel unsure about their place in the process. Being aware of differences and putting this awareness into action is a hallmark of an inclusive leader. The next time you have your members together, be conscious of how the discussion goes. And then allow yourself some quiet, reflective time when it is over to honestly assess your leadership style. For instance, did you allow the dominant people in your group to take over? Were there times you called upon someone who was a known group member rather than the new members because you wanted a quicker response? Do you hesitate to ask the opinion of your member who stutters because others get impatient as he’s trying to formulate his sentences? Mind you, none of these things make you a bad person! It’s just very important