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Leading a Culturally Inclusive Environment

In the October edition of the Connections blog, Dr. Nicole R. Robinson cited an excerpt from Daniel Burrus’ article “Teach a Man to Fish: Training vs Education”. If you are not familiar with this article, it distinguishes the difference between training vs. education by elucidating the ancient truism of giving man a fish to feed him for a day versus teaching a man to fish to feed him for life.

While this ancient truism’s principle of understanding the concept of systematic comprehension (education) versus focusing on gaining skill-oriented knowledge or a type of behavior (training) was focused on a fisherman, this same principle applies to leaders and their ability to impact change especially as it relates to developing a culturally inclusive environment.

A leader must position himself/herself in an unbiased posture where they can constantly scan the environment in an effort to understand the totality of its current state.

As a leader, innate and taught behaviors developed as a child through adulthood have become the introduction of how others view one another. Some of these characteristics are not to be envied and others deserve a badge of honor. However, the question is, are these behaviors based on life experiences adequate to transform an environment lacking diversity, equity and cultural inclusivity? The answer is “No”!

In many cases, leaders believe they have the aptitude to transform an environment lacking diversity, equity and cultural inclusivity based solely on their personal life experiences. However, this perspective shows their isolation from reality and the environment will mostly likely not transform based on those factors alone. A leader must position himself/herself in an unbiased posture where they can constantly scan the environment in an effort to understand the totality of its current state. This approach will remove the need to defend the current state of the environment so they can focus on what the environment actually needs.

At Cultural Connections by Design (CCBD), a diversity consultant company, we understand all too well the balancing act of being a diversity change agent and being attentive to the needs of those who you are leading. Nevertheless, remember, the ability to lead change begins with self-awareness and sometimes that means hearing the uncomfortable truth.

The ability to lead change begins with self-awareness and sometimes that means hearing the uncomfortable truth.

Last summer, academic and corporate leaders participated the Inclusive Executive Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. During this weeklong program, I witnessed the transformation of the many leaders who committed themselves to the services, events, tools and strategies provided by CCBD to create inclusive cultures of belonging in their organizations. These leaders understood that the beginning of the environments transformation started with their mindset and ability to lead that change. The late, musician, poet and civil rights activist, James Baldwin himself said: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” As a leader, our words must mirror our actions, and now these leaders are demonstrating their learned ability to lead an environment that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion.

Lastly, I challenge you as a leader to make the commitment to ensure that your environment is diverse, equitable and culturally inclusive. Attached is a diversity and inclusion strategic plan framework sample provided to the leaders who attended the 2019 Inclusive Executive Leadership Academy to begin their journey towards developing cultures of belonging.


Meet the Author

Zenitta Anderson

CCBD Board Chair


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