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Inclusive Leadership Discussion Guide

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Emily Pik



Jun 18, 2021


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Inclusive Leadership Discussion Guide
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Part I (June 18, 2020)


Discussion recording


Inclusive Leadership_061820.mp495279.2KB


Additional resources

Ground rules for continuing courageous conversations

Read more about Glenn E. Singleton's framework here.

Courageous conversations are dialogues in which participants commit to engage each other with honesty, open-mindedness, and vulnerability; to listen deeply to better understand each other’s perspective; and to “sustain the conversation when it gets uncomfortable or diverted.”

The goal of Ground Rules for Continuing Courageous Conversations is to be able to have a conversation about race without excessive fear of being labeled racist, biased or bigoted, to avoid blaming or being blamed, and to avoid discounting or invalidating the experiences and feelings of others. To that end, we agree to follow these ground rules:

Four agreements:

1. Stay Engaged

  • Give yourself permission to focus fully on the conversation topic or exercise at hand.
  • Share a story, state your opinion, ask a question—risk and grow! Mistakes are part of this work.

2. Speak Your Truth

  • Honor confidentiality - what is shared here, stays here.
  • Value everyone’s thoughts.
  • Start by assuming good intentions.
  • Speak from your own experience and use “I” statements, as in “I think”, “I feel”, “I believe”, or “I want”
  • It’s important that we create a safe environment where everyone is free to speak openly.
  • Keep in mind that people are in different places in this work. In order for us to grow, people need to be able to share thoughts in a way that’s comfortable for them.
  • Be aware of non-verbal communication.
  • Before speaking, think about what you want others to know. How can they best hear you?
  • Mistakes are part of success. Don’t be overly cautious about being politically correct – this is a learning process.
  • Disagree respectfully.

3. Listen for Understanding

  • Be comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Listen without thinking about how you are going to respond.
  • Try to understand where another person is coming from as best you can.
  • Be careful not to compare your experiences with another person’s. This often invalidates or minimizes a person’s experiences.
  • If someone is pointing out how what you said left them feeling, try not to explain or rationalize what you said or why you said it. Sometimes positive intent is not enough. Sometimes it’s necessary to just say, “I didn’t realize what I said was inappropriate…or hurt you in that way, I’m sorry,” etc.

4. Expect and Accept Non-closure

  • Engaging in race conversations is ongoing work that does not necessarily leave a person walking away feeling everything turned out the way they hoped. Accept that much of this is about changing yourself, not others.
  • “Hang out in uncertainty” and not rush to quick solutions, especially in relation to racial understanding, which requires ongoing dialogue.

Responsibility to each other and to the courageous conversation process

Group members will encourage each other to follow the ground rules.

Becoming anti-racist: fear, learning, growth zones


Chart was adapted by Andrew M. Ibrahim MD, MSc from “Who Do I Want to Be During COVID-19” chart (original author unknown) with some ideas pulled from Ibram X. Kendi’s work.

Why be an inclusive leader?



“Diversity” and “inclusion” are so often lumped together that they’re assumed to be the same thing. Diversity speaks to who is on the team, but inclusion focused on who is really in the game.

However, diversity and inclusion alone aren't enough to build a culture that is psychologically safe. In “Belonging: A Conversation about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” Krys Burnette talks about why you need all 3 DEI elements. You can’t only have two elements.

Inclusive leadership is a conglomeration of behaviors such as:

  • Ensuring that team members speak up and are heard
  • Making it safe to propose novel ideas
  • Empowering team members to make decisions
  • Taking advice and implementing feedback
  • Giving actionable feedback
  • Sharing credit for team success

What other tactics can you action to be inclusive?

  • Authenticity
  • Networking and visibility
  • Clear career paths

Definitions from which we can all work for this discussion:

Belonging at work: an outcome of diversity, equity, and inclusion coexisting within teams and an organization; individuals who feel that they belong feel more empowered to speak up, make change, and shift the culture. Leads to resiliency and engagement and therefore everyone is able to achieve better outcomes

Diversity at work: having representation of folks with a variety of identities, backgrounds, and experiences, ideas. This can refer to people of various races, genders, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religions, ethnicity, national origins, mental or physical abilities, cognitions, and cultures.

Equity at work: Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equity at work is committing to constantly and consistently implementing systems and processes that recognize and redistribute power to all individuals, such as ensuring they are able to contribute, obtain professional development, and have clear pathways to leadership

Inclusion at work: ensuring that all individuals feel welcomed, safe, and valued to share their thoughts, ideas, and perspectives

Anti-racism: actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life

Bias: associations that people consciously and unconsciously hold. Unconscious or implicit biases are expressed automatically without conscious awareness and may affect our decisions and actions

Anti-bias: acknowledging the existence of biases and actively confronting how they can inform attitudes and actions as individuals, organizations, and a society

Equality: Aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things

Intersectionality: Intersectionality considers different systems of oppression, and specifically how they overlap and are compounded to shape the employee experience. E.g. when we think about who is in leadership positions, we can't just look at race, we also need to consider other identities such as gender

Race­: A socially constructed characterization of individuals based on skin color, culture, etc.

Racism: Any conscious or unconscious act that even unwittingly tolerates, accepts or reinforces racially unequal opportunities or outcomes for an individual or group perceived to have lower racial status. Racism can be individual, institutional, cultural, internalized

Privilege: A right or advantage that is given to some people and not others

“Whiteness”:­ The component of each and every one of ourselves that expects assimilation to the dominant culture

Small group discussion


In his recent TED Talk, “The difference between being ‘not racist’ and antiracist,” Ibram X. Kendi says:

“Every race is an intersection of different groups and identities. What’s critical for us to understand is that there hasn’t been just racist ideas that have targeted black people, there are racist ideas that target black women, lesbians, transgender women. There is intersectional bigotry as well.”

7 Circles Activity: Draw a medium-sized circle in the center of a piece of paper. Around that circle, draw seven smaller circles connected to the larger circle. Write your name in the center circle. In the smaller circles, write the names of seven groups with which you identify (examples: gender, nationality/ethnicity, religious affiliation, political stance, geographic ties, family role etc.)

Discussion Question #1:

7 Circles Debrief:

Talk about a time when you felt proud to be a member of a certain group. When did it feel painful to be a member of a certain group?

Discussion Question #2:

Where is there opportunity for you/your company to improve inclusion, equity, belonging, diversity?

Sharing starters - Where is there opportunity for you/your company to improve inclusion, equity, belonging, diversity?

  1. Do these inclusion statements resonate with your experience in the workplace?

  2. Psychological safety

  3. I feel like I belong at my company...

  4. I feel respected by the people I work with....
  5. I know decisions made are inclusive of diverse perspectives...

  6. Incidents

  7. I have witnessed/experienced/overheard harassment based on identity in the past 6 months...

  8. Trust in leadership

  9. I trust that my HR team/Manager/Executive Team will address my concerns swiftly and competently…

Discussion Question #3:

What’s your company’s anti-racism response/action been? Please take notes to share back with the wider group - what responses/systemic change initiatives/ideas in progress did you find inclusive?

Discussion Question #4:

How do you think about being an inclusive leader, mentor, teammate? See Deepa Iyer’s list of roles in social change ecosystems on the next page. If you have started to fill out the Reflection Guide in the PDF, think about referencing some thoughts you have from that worksheet.


The Roles

  • Weavers: I see the through-lines of connectivity between people, places, organizations, ideas, and movements.
  • Experimenters: I innovate, pioneer, and invent. I take risks and course-correct as needed.
  • Frontline Responders: I address community crises by marshaling and organizing resources, networks, and messages.
  • Visionaries: I imagine and generate our boldest possibilities, hopes and dreams, and remind us of our direction.
  • Builders: I develop, organize, and implement ideas, practices, people, and resources in service of a collective vision.
  • Caregivers: I nurture and nourish the people around me by creating and sustaining a community of care, joy, and connection.
  • Disruptors: I take uncomfortable and risky actions to shake up the status quo, to raise awareness, and to build power.
  • Healers: I recognize and tend to the generational and current traumas caused by oppressive systems, institutions, policies, and practices.
  • Storytellers: I craft and share our community stories, cultures, experiences, histories, and possibilities through art, music, media, and movement.
  • Guides: I teach, counsel, and advise, using my gifts of well-earned discernment and wisdom.z