Why inclusive leadership is crucial in achieving our industry’s DE&I goals

Omnicom Media Group’s Kristiaan Kroon makes the case for DE&I-based leadership and its role in business success.

We’ve been through a lot over the past two years – understatement, I know! – but one of the more positive outcomes to have emerged has been our industry’s increased focus on diversity and inclusion.

When I began my media career 20 years ago, workplace cultures were built on conforming to Type A personalities: competitive, impatient, domineering and certainly not inclusive. There was no awareness of diversity and inclusion and their value. While change has been slow, it has been consistent and has accelerated in recent years.

Today, diversity and inclusion are key business priorities across the industry, with many businesses creating and refining the structures and processes for inclusion.

To stay on course and achieve out industry DE&I goals, there’s one ingredient we need more than any other: inclusive leadership.

What does inclusive leadership mean and why should you care?

Inclusive leadership is the only way to be a successful leader of high-performing teams over a sustained period.

A leader is responsible for building and managing effective teams based on trust created through authentic behaviours and relationships. An inclusive leader actively works to engage every member of the business, recognising that different management styles and structures are required to bring out the best performance in everyone.

This must be underpinned by trust, openness, and clear standards on acceptable behaviour. And like any management skill, you need to build the capability and experience in the group.

This style of leadership has always mattered but has not necessarily been defined before as inclusive leadership, with the component parts clearly articulated for people to consciously learn and build upon.

Treating all your staff fairly without preconceptions is, simply put, the right thing to do and the minimum an employee should expect from their leader and business.

It is also critical to maximising the potential of the team and the business results they generate. As just one example, McKinsey and Company research shows that companies with the most gender-diverse executive teams are 67% more likely to experience superior value creation than companies with the least diverse executive teams.

Don’t shy away from the hard stuff

With all this work, we should not shy away from the fact that sometimes diversity and inclusion discussions can be polarising and create the opposite impact; highlighting divisions and differences, if not managed effectively.

Navigating the complexities of inclusive leadership can at times be difficult. My guiding principle is to create an inclusive process that does not marginalise any group or person, enabling recognition and success to be determined by merit and achievement.

In practice, a key role for a leader is to shine continual focus on listening and elevating voices that are sometimes on the margins from any group within the business and continually assessing the processes and support in place.

The elevation of diversity and inclusion across our industry through initiatives such as the MFA DE&I Survey and the formation of the MFA DE&I Advisory Council has shown us that we still have a lot of work to do to.

That we are doing so also shows we are making progress that is accelerating, and I’m confident inclusive leadership will lead us to our ultimate goal of a diverse and equitable workplace, where every individual feels seen, safe and valued, enabling superior business performance.

Kristiaan Kroon is chief investment officer of Omnicom Media Group Australia


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