Editor’s note: Donald Thompson writes a weekly column about management and leadership as well as diversity and other important issues for WRAL TechWire. His columns are published on Wednesdays. Thompson of The Diversity Movement was named an Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 Southeast Award winner.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – There is nothing “traditional” about leadership excellence in today’s constantly evolving business landscape. Actually, 2023 has placed the spotlight on ideas that would have been considered far outside the norm as little as five years ago. I don’t have a crystal ball to tell whether we are in a new, defining moment as we rush headlong into 2024, but I am sure that the way we look at leadership has changed for good.
As I look back on the past year, I believe that we have redefined the fundamental characteristics of great leadership. The lens is now on things we used to label “soft skills.” Rather than an afterthought, we now understand that it is the employee as their full self that is at the heart of organizational success.
The unifying idea for me as a senior executive is directing all my efforts into being an inclusive leader and creating teams that operate under the tenets of inclusive leadership. What I have seen with clients and executive teams I’ve counseled in 2023 is that the power of inclusive leadership lies in its ability to foster workplace empowerment and well-being.
INCLUSIVE LEADERSHIP FOR A NEW ERA
Imagine, it’s almost 2024, and we are at the dawn of a new age of leadership that begins and ends the conversation, not with the traditional trappings of power, accumulating resources or even personal aggrandizement, but with creating culture-centric organizations. By tapping into the collective intelligence of diverse teams, inspiring innovation, and prioritizing well-being, we set our organizations on a trajectory for sustained success.
It is no wonder, then, that the old adage by the eminent management thinker Peter Drucker is truer now than ever before: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Of course, Drucker did not think strategy was unimportant, but his emphasis on culture-building has become the essence of great leadership today. The pace and evolution of the business landscape demands leaders who not only navigate change, but also nurture the mental fortitude to lead teams and individuals using compassion and resilience.
Working with clients like BAYADA Home Health Care, I get a front row seat to watch the emphasis on culture be implemented. According to Bridgett “BT” Tabor, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Senior Manager at BAYADA, “What fuels my passion is the opportunity to be a representative for those who may not have a voice. I am deeply motivated by being an agent of change and making a difference in the lives of others. Coming from humble beginnings and being the underdog has instilled in me a sense of determination and resilience.”
Tabor is championing inclusive practices by acting as a voice for those who may feel voiceless. Prioritizing culture, which leads to better employee well-being, is precisely the type of leadership necessary for sustainable success. And, it’s this kind of culture-first mentality that led Newsweek to name BAYADA among America’s greatest workplaces for diversity.
Here’s the clincher when it comes to being an inclusive leader who nurtures a culture focused on employee well-being – doing so is both a compassionate choice and smart financial decision. The cumulative results of every survey and pulse test of today’s workers is that they are frustrated, disengaged, anxious and willing to drop you and your company for a competitor who can offer them a better culture.
Yes, read that again – “offer them a better culture.” As an executive, you can control the culture of your organization, so a minimal commitment (or none at all) is signaling to prospects, potential employees and consumers that they should look elsewhere if they want to do business with or work at a company that aligns with their values.
Let’s take a look at several indicators that show the link between well-being and better bottom-line business outcomes:
– Stronger teams: Well-being fosters unity, promoting a sense of belonging and mutual respect that creates a cohesive workforce. When employees feel seen, valued and cared for, they are more likely to collaborate and support each other when needed. Great teams make great companies.
– Unbounded innovation and creativity: Employee well-being weaves innovation into the fabric of the organization. A healthy, content and balanced workforce is more receptive to new ideas and well-being initiatives encourage continuous learning and adaptation, which provide the fertile ground for innovation to thrive.
– Revenue generation: Inclusive leaders understand the connection between well-being and revenue generation. Engaged employees tend to perform better, which leads to increased productivity and substantial revenue growth. Imagine the financial consequences if an emphasis on well-being turned one so-so hour per week per employee into an hour of innovation, creativity or greater efficiency. You would almost immediately feel the impact and have a stronger, more collaborative workforce.
The early years of the 2020s have been tumultuous. With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon in the U.S. and continued unrest across the globe, we are certainly in store for more uncertainty. The year ahead is going to be filled with innumerable distractions for you, your teams, the market, and our communities. So, what can you control in all this noise?
The answer isn’t “nothing” or “very little.”
Every leader can put their efforts into creating a culture-centric organization that is ready to compete today and win tomorrow. And, no one is saying you have to take gargantuan steps right away. Begin your journey where it is appropriate, whether that is putting resources into establishing or supporting an employee resource group (ERG) or finding a leadership team cultural competency assessment tool like LeaderView to iron out the challenges your executive team faces.
You can also control your own holistic approach to inclusive leadership. As the world continues to transform, leaders who navigate change with compassion and resilience are the architects of organizations that thrive in every sense of the word.
The call to action for senior leaders is clear: Transform your workplace into a hub where employees thrive physically, mentally and socially. By championing well-being, we build organizations anchored in a culture of compassion, collaboration and resilience.
Are you ready to redefine how you view great leadership? Be courageous!
About the Author
Donald Thompson, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 SE Award winner, founded The Diversity Movement to fundamentally transform the modern workplace through diversity-led culture change. TDM was recently acquired by Workplace Options, which brings holistic wellbeing services to more than 79 million people in more than 200 countries and territories across the globe. Recognized by Inc., Fast Company and Forbes, Thompson is author of Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, hosts the podcast “High Octane Leadership in an Empathetic World” and has published widely on leadership and the executive mindset. As a leadership and executive coach, Thompson has created a culture-centric ethos for winning in the marketplace by balancing empathy and economics.
Follow him on LinkedIn for updates on news, events and his podcast, or contact him at email@example.com for executive coaching, speaking engagements or DEI-related content. To further explore DEI content and issues impacting your work and life, visit TDM Library, a multimedia resource hub that gives leaders a trusted source of DEI content.