There is no greater truth than this: every one of us is capable of accomplishing more together than we can ever possibly dream of achieving alone.

In today’s climate we are observing a new national acceptance around exclusive leadership. In exclusive practices leaders decide who is allowed at the table. These leaders often do not have any standards, or articulated expectations, or shared rationale for who is included and excluded. Unfortunately this is common practice, but not positive in any way. These leaders decide (without any metric or policy) who can be welcomed into leadership conversations.

It’s a sad leadership approach to observe, but every leader has their reasons.

As a woman who often serves in a leadership capacity it is both men and women who practice exclusive leadership. When I ask those leaders (who are open enough to dialogue about their purposeful exclusivity) their practices usually come down to three rationales.

  1. They are so worried about the current status of their organization that they are embarrassed to let others in. Or,
  2. They want to control the conversation internally until they feel comfortable welcoming other voices. Or,
  3. They really don’t see the value in adding other voices (this typically isn’t an attempt to be an asshole, it’s usually just a feeling of overwhelm that causes an ego led decision resulting in a misguided philosophy that “I, and only I, can remedy this situation.”)

But then there are leaders that are inclusive. These leaders are more effective, have more community and employee buy-in, have greater long-term success, and have a higher potential for success during their life as a leader (compared to their exclusive peers).

Number one on the list: Humility. If a leader doesn’t have the skill and disposition of being humble they can often times be swept into the world of exclusivity. It is okay to share your accolades but if you aren’t willing to recognize that no one has achieved perfection you’re screwing yourself and your stakeholders. Humility is a welcoming characteristic of leaders and it draws others to the conversation.

We are #StrongerTogether

Number two on the list: Passion. In very few cases of private or public sector leadership have we achieved the culminating “secret sauce.” If we have, we have in no way achieved that success alone or with a few special friends. Leaders who contribute something no one else has yet achieved are those that surround themselves with people that are smarter, better, divergent, and passionate. Passion is the differentiator. Inclusive leaders build teams that dialogue and disagree about shared passions and responsibilities. You can make someone complete a task.

You can’t make someone achieve a vision (that friends can only be achieved through passion).

Number three on the list: Future focused. Inclusive leaders are not stuck in the now, they are building forward to what is next. They are delegating, evaluating, and attending to the needs of the now. But they do not let the trial of today derail them from the big picture. They are laser focused, often with a shared and communicated vision, taking small steps that lead them to where they want to go as a community (not as an individual). Inclusive leaders find themselves to be collaborative and open responders, rather than frantic reactors (again demonstrating a commitment towards something greater than today). Inclusive leaders can see value and show appreciation for every person or group that challenges their thinking and actions along the way: because they recognize that every bump is a lesson and every hill makes us stronger. They know that if they bring others into the fold from step one, they will get to where they are going (maybe not faster but better).

Inclusive leaders by the nature of their approach welcome the voice of others, are eager to learn and listen. And they have confidence and poise enough to lead through any group, any community, any conflict. Because they are never in it alone, and they recognize that awesome power of community.

We bring our community with us every step of the way to build trust and understanding. We do this so that they know where we are going and why and can help us at every turn to be the best that we can be.

In a political time of division let us not lean towards exclusive leadership out of fear; but model with every action a commitment to community. A commitment to inclusivity. A commitment to a better, stronger, and braver leadership philosophy.

Today we are faced with so much negativity and distrust. Let this be a challenge to every leader (in churches, schools, service, government, etc.) to show what strength comes from being inclusive. To model for our children what it means to disagree but move forward together. To show our teams that we are never too big for our own britches. To thank every individual who pushes us to be better, and to acknowledge that communities of people, workers, stakeholders, etc. are stronger together than we ever will be alone (or in our comfy little silos of exclusion).

fierce mom, constant learner, writer, speaker, researcher, thinker, designer, gadget queen, advocate for learning that matters & public ed, lead with my actions