Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: 5 Must-Have Leadership Traits To Make It Real

Businesses that make it happen enjoy growth and profitability. It’s a no-brainer winner.

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There is a lot of buzz talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)and how government, businesses, and other organizations should make it a top priority.

Recent events within America and abroad have spotlighted the fact that lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the root of much of the discord, disruption, despair, and destruction of the peace, productivity, and prosperity that once existed across the board to a reasonable degree.

There is hardly a day that goes by now that the news is not full of stories about mass shootings that killed several people, police misconduct and brutality, or exposure of government officials misusing and abusing power to separate and polarize people against one another.

Corporations and other businesses are not immune either. They are experiencing the same thing.

The one glaring and prominent issue that sticks out and is common among all of the above problematic issues is race. America has a race problem. We may as well face it.

It won’t go away until it's addressed properly and solutions are put into place and effectively implemented.

Billions of dollars have been pledged to address the issue of race and hundreds of studies have been implemented to find an answer.

I say the answer is right under America’s and the global community’s noses. The issue of racial problems and what they produce is not a mystery. It is a matter of lack of leadership. And to take it further it is the lack of the right kind of leadership.

Until there is a serious and applied consistency of diversity, equity, and inclusion that permeates every level of leadership there will not be a cure for the disease of racism in America or anywhere else.

I submit there are 5 leadership traits that must be injected and maintained in government, education, corporate, and business operations for diversity, equity, and inclusion to become a true reality.

Those traits are a mindset of intentionality, communication, adaptability, team building, and delegation.

1. An Intentional Process

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It all begins with a mindset of intent from the very top of every echelon. If this is not the case, diversity, equity, and inclusion will never work.

Intentional means the leaders must grasp what diversity, equity, and inclusion truly are. It is not some handout program or intrusive civil rights concept that seeks a forcing upon people, government, or business.

It is the call to make a reality of what the founder's state in America’s founding document, The Declaration of Independence, that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”

The country has yet to live up to that standard. It’s not been applied equally to people of color and it has also excluded, to a large extent, women of all colors.

People of color are still left out or denied opportunities, equal treatment, and liberties based on color. Women are still doing the same or more work than men in the same position and not getting paid equally.

Women can only get so far and then they are held back when they reach what is referred to as a “glass ceiling.” Too often they don’t get beyond that ceiling because of their gender.

Leadership must have a dedicated and serious intent to rectify these circumstances.

2. Communication

Without proper, clear, and concise communication, leadership is unlikely to be effective.

Communication is the best tool for explaining ideas, setting expectations, and building a platform to accomplish a goal through people and processes.

There is an awful lot of talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but talking does not necessarily equate to communication. Leaders must effectively communicate and not just talk about the subject.

The Importance of Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication is what builds relationships. A leader must talk but also listen. Communication is a two-way street.

Leaders must communicate the intentional process of implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion and make sure those to whom they are communicating get the message that it is an integral part of a government, corporate, or organization’s mission and the expectations are that everyone will be all in to make it happen.

The message must be delivered directly and with clarity and set the tone for what the expected outcome is.

Effective communication:

  • Minimizes misunderstandings and confusion
  • Ensures that team members know what is expected from them
  • Encourages communications among team members
  • Increases the chances that the stated goal will be reached.
  • Pays attention to how the listeners react to what is said
  • Makes sure there is availability to answer questions and have patience while doing it.
  • Is open to feedback and gives credit where it is warranted.

3. Adaptability

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Likely you’ve heard about “survival of the fitness.” It’s the principle that tells us that only those who can handle change and cope with adversity survive. In other words, adaptability is necessary when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — and it can mean the difference between success and failure of the entity that is attempting to implement it.

Leadership must be able to accept and embrace the fact that they may be part of the problem before diversity, equity, and inclusion becomes a reality.

Human beings have blind spots because of cultural influence, preconceived notions, past experiences, good and bad, and a host of other things that cause unconscious bias.

Therefore, a leader must be open to question whether there is a bias that may be hindering their perception or beliefs they may have that causes an adverse affect and effect on accomplishing the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

A leader must also help any team members that may also have blind spots that keep light from shining on what needs to be done and accomplished in this area.

When that happens it can be worked on and worked out. Inflexibility and lack of adaptability is a roadblock to DEI.

4. Team Building

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DEI is a team sport. Like football, basketball, baseball, soccer, or any sport that requires team building and work to win, DEI is no different.

A leader must recognize this and be a team builder as well as a team player. Like any sport, there is a coach and that is the mindset a leader must have. He or she is the coach.

Successful coaches of winning teams learn about and understand each of their players. They find out what motivates them, what discourages them, what their weaknesses and strengths are, and then help make them the best team member they can be.

Some on the team become star players and other team members look to them for guidance and leadership as well.

Creating and implementing DEI within an environment is no different. It requires a leader and a team. Some of them will become star players and some will become strong supporters but not excel.

That’s okay as long as the team wins with the totality of their efforts. DEI is the game. It can only be won with the right leadership and team building.

5. Accountability

DEI will never become a reality unless there is accountability. Leaders must themselves be accountable, but also hold their team accountable as well.

Without accountability, diversity, equity, and inclusion are just lip service, platitudes, and a subject to be talked about as something admirable but never to be achieved.

Unfortunately, this is the present state of affairs now and it needs to…no, it must be changed.

Accountability comes from the top and trickles down. From the top of a nation, corporation, business, an entity, and even family, accountability is required if meaningful accomplishment is to occur.

Within governments and businesses, one of the best ways to ensure accountability and results is to tie compensation to results.

When the reality of “you don’t get paid unless you get these results” is presented to a company, business, organization or individual things start to get done.

DEI should be tied to compensation. If a CEO, President, Manager, Leader, team members, or employees know that part of their performance and part of their compensation is tied to DEI results there wil be a tsunami of change.

5. Change would be good for all involved

Diversity = Profitability

Diversity, equity, and inclusion generate more profits. It is a fact that companies that embrace and establish DEI as part of their fabric have a decided increase of 35 percent more financial returns above their national industry medians.

Companies in the top quartile have an increase of 15 percent for gender diversity. Bottom-quartile companies were less likely than average ones to achieve high financial returns.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are just good societal and business sense because it:

  • Creates a diverse employee talent poos that can provide different perspectives, innovative ideas, and creativity a growing company needs to ensure long-term success.
  • Extends a company’s marketplace reach
  • Builds a more qualified workforce, simply as a result of having a much larger pool of potential candidates from which to choose.
  • Extends your company’s marketplace reach,
  • Builds a more qualified workforce, simply as a result of having a much larger pool of potential candidates from which to choose.
  • Improves employee morale and teamwork by making each worker feel valued for who they are and by being more accepting of what each employee contributes (regardless of cultural, racial, lifestyle, age, and gender differences) towards a common goal.


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America and other nations are in the grips of a dilemma because of the issue of race and racism. They are looking for answers which are obvious if there is a measure of seriousness and intentional focus on how to address the issues.

The answer is a serious and continuous implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) from top to bottom within government, business, and society levels.

DEI cannot be implemented without strong intentional leadership. The leadership traits that must be emphasized and deployed are:

  1. An intentional mindset to embrace it and implement it.
  2. Strong clear communication to educate and explain it.
  3. Adaptability to recognize that unconscious bias may exist and be flexible to make changes for the better.
  4. Developing a team with a game-winning attitude toward the system.
  5. Holding everyone accountable for implementing and accomplishing DEI goals.

Everyone wins through the process and our society will be better for it. Anyone can be a game-changer. Will you do your part?




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Roy Landers

Roy Landers

Business attorney, entrepreneur, content marketer, and published author. I help you communicate your marketing message and generate sales. www.landerslaw.com

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