Many organizations are concluding that in order for their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies to be successful, their male leaders need to be part of the effort. Including them is what helps brings about the culture change that fosters inclusivity and belonging — where everyone, regardless identity, can bring their full selves and potential to work.
With position, power and privilege comes a responsibility: to foster the inclusivity that can lead to high levels of effectiveness among your people. Women, those from historically marginalized groups and younger generations no longer tolerate the old-school, patriarchal leadership style based on fear, command and control. There’s a far more effective model of leadership: Heart-Based Leadership (HBL). Heart-based leaders fully utilize their skills and humanity to guide their communication, choices, and relationships with others.
Heart-based leadership entails six principles: Emotional Literacy, Vulnerability, Authenticity, Accountability, Inclusivity, and Love, all woven throughout the Ally’s Journey. Leaders who want to be an inclusivity ally can use this four-strategy framework in a personal or professional context, developing the skills as they progress:
- Acknowledge your stuff.
Take a journey of self-reflection to confront what currently drives your behaviors as a male. This is a matter of education, not shame and blame. It’s a process of discovering your unconscious gaps (including both biases and privileges), your own and others’ emotions, and the unhealthy masculine norms that drive behavior — or the manbox.The manbox is that set of unwritten rules on what it means to be a man that don’t serve anyone, including men. When we become consciously aware of what drives our language and behavior, as well as how it impacts others, we can make a conscious choice to use our privilege for good and become better allies. This is healthy masculinity in action. The HBL principle of emotional literacy is key here — first we must become aware of our own emotions and how they influence our behavior.
- Listen with empathy and compassion.
Are you aware of what others experience in their work and their lives? It’s a given that most men are unaware of the pain others go through — an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude predominates. Becoming aware of the lived experiences of others involves listening to those who belong to typically excluded groups.In my work, I have learned that once men do become aware of another person’s experiences and challenges, they develop the empathy and compassion that shift them into action. Since the road to allyship is fraught with mistakes, it’s also essential for men to have empathy and compassion for themselves. This very important step in the Ally’s Journey involves the HBL principles of vulnerability and love.
- Take responsibility for the impact of your bias, unexamined privilege, and manbox behaviors.
Do you know what drives your words, choices and actions? Having that understanding allows you to focus on ownership-driven accountability. We can take responsibility for our language, actions, choices, and consequences, intended or not — especially in terms of how they impact others.Consider the toll of microaggressions — statements, actions, and incidents based on indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group, such as a racial or ethnic minority. Microaggressions are often referred to as “death by a thousand cuts,” since they can take such a substantial toll in both social and working environments. The HBL principle of accountability helps men understand and clean up their mistakes — including the microagressions they may not have been aware of. It also helps leaders call out the behaviors of other men on their watch — and support, create and maintain psychological safety.
- Commit to new practices and behaviors.
Do you ever wonder, “What can I do?” Many men I work with ask this question, as do the DEI professionals in their organizations. The answer is this: Make a commitment to think, talk, and act like a better man. Put the HBL principles of inclusivity and authenticity into action.Male leaders need to learn how to behave, act and lead authentically — from the heart — and use their privilege for good. They need to not only learn how to support diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, but to encourage other men to do the same. For DEI professionals looking for ways to engage and educate and support men to become allies and inclusionary leaders, they can create protocols based on the principles of inclusivity and authenticity, and support men toward contributing to lasting cultural change.
Becoming an inclusionary leader is a journey, but you’re not alone. You’ve got a roadmap in these four strategies. You’ve got clear guideposts in the six principles of Heart-Based Leadership. And for those who don’t identify as male but still want to follow this path, this is truly a journey anyone can take. Everyone can apply these principles and strategies to support yourself on the road to becoming an Inclusivity Ally.
Written by Ray Arata.
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