Leadership Commitment – a subset of Leadership Intelligence to strengthen DEI
Wednesday August 25, 2021, By Nisha Chandran
Leadership Intelligence and Leadership commitment
Over the years, multiple studies that gauged employee retention rates report that highly qualified, motivated people chose to work for companies that build a strong, inclusive, and inspiring culture. Leaders in the COVID era are facing unprecedented challenges in terms of building a workplace culture that not only retains their best employees but also makes them feel inclusive. Leaders these days must be able to lead multiple generations of people, deal with their working styles and what work really means to them. Though today’s leaders understand the value D,E&I can bring to the table, they should enhance their skills with regards to human awareness acumen, inspire, and engage their employees. Leadership intelligence relies on a Leader’s ability to grow, learn and master new ways to lead people. There are six tenets to consider to develop Leadership Intelligence: self-awareness, integrity, authenticity, commitment, executive brain function, and response agility (Source: Commitment: Leadership Intelligence with Mindsets by Tony V. Zampella, Leadership Intelligence Is What Matters Now by Magi Graziano, Leadership and Leadership Intelligence by Edward E. Leonard). Leadership Commitment is an important subset of Leadership Intelligence that lays the foundation for the rest.
Like every other personal value that we have, Leadership Commitment also begins with committing ourselves to something larger, because it provides us with a sense of deeper meaning and purpose. When we take a deliberate decision to commit to something bigger than ourselves, we choose to work towards a future that goes beyond concerns from our immediate circumstances.
Importance of Leadership Commitment
Commitment ground us, provides a sense of purpose, provides direction while taking critical decisions and helps us to evolve emotionally. Employees today expect their leaders to “Walk the Talk” before they follow their direction, and employees want to feel assured that a certain strategy can stand the “test of time”. Leaders must understand the systemic impacts of organizational ‘culture’ and be willing to look deeper to understand the current cultural norms that are impeding their D,E&I journey. When leaders commit themselves to improve their current D,E&I goals or practices within the organization, they might face pushbacks from other leaders, managers or key stake holders. When leaders know that they may have to disagree with opinions of their own team members, a strong commitment will give leaders the strength to face such challenges. Commitment also enables leaders to:
- Influence others – A strong sense of commitment will enable leaders to influence others and drive consensus while taking key decisions. It is important to have radically candid conversations on the business case, talent case and culture case of DEI initiatives with other leaders/managers/team members.
- Inspire smart risk-taking – Any new idea, concept, policy or initiative brings in change. And it takes time for people to accept change. It takes time to try new things out, make mistakes, and then figure out a strategy that works. When this becomes a practice or a new norm, this will enable other leaders and managers to follow the path. They will start taking new initiatives, and will also learn what needs to be done to make these initiatives effective and successful.
- Fuel commitment in others – Committed leaders set an example for other leaders and managers who lack confidence or experience to drive change, navigate challenges and manage pushbacks. Their rewards of success will inspire commitment in others as well. For eg, leaders can set the example by embracing a flexible work schedule themselves, to promote flexible work policies.
- Drive a deeper sense of employee engagement – Employees cooperate at a higher level when they share commitment. Commitment fosters camaraderie, trust, compassion and caring – characteristics that a group needs to keep going in the long run, especially in times of crisis.
Translating Leadership Commitment to Action
Commitment to creating change requires leaders to be active listeners. They need to be receptive to new ideas from employees. This will instil faith in their employees to support leaders in their journey. Some of the ways in which leadership commitment can convert into action are:
- Focus on one thing at a time: It is important to be committed to a single DEI vision. The strategies, goals and plans should be based on this vision. Focusing on one goal at a time, will ensure things happen in a structured manner. This laser sharp focus on one goal at a time will enable leaders to realize the organization’s DEI vision.
- Persistence and patience go hand-in-hand: When leaders commit themselves to a goal, it is important not to expect overnight success, especially if it involves managing change and mind-set shifts. Progress might be slow, but structured, consistent effort is key.
Not all leadership choices qualify as commitment though. Tokenism can lead to hiring people just to achieve diversity targets. Such instances can only create change for appearance sake and will not lead to any meaningful change or progress.
The only path to creating lasting change is one person’s will and ability to rise above every challenge and work towards making things happen. Thus, a deep-rooted commitment from leaders become the baseline to get the ball rolling to achieve an organization’s DEI vision, strategy and goals.
- A seasoned training professional and DEI consultant, Nisha leads and program manages the DEI Training and Development services as part of the Centre of Excellence team at Avtar.