Being an Inclusive Leader Means Getting It Wrong Sometimes
In my July message to the Hummingbird community, I shared that I needed time to take a break and reflect on what I would share in my next blog. Looking back, I should have taken my message a step further and said-– I’m taking a blog hiatus in July because I need a break.
To the leaders who read this blog, It Is okay to take a break!
That’s not what I learned in my 20+ years in corporate life. In many places, though things are slowly changing, the work comes first (even when they say it doesn’t). And sometimes, the internal competition is so intense that going on paid time off means that you may fall behind when trying to get ahead.
These examples shed light on the ‘humanity’ that is missing in our workplaces. Cultures too often tell us to take off our ‘coat of emotions’ when we walk into the office each day, assimilate to the workplace culture, and fulfill our responsibilities with robotic excellence.
In case you forgot, the people who work at your company are humans, not robots. You, if you’re reading this, are also human.
These same corporate environments taught me to be a manager and a leader. As much as I may have resisted assimilation, particularly around approaches that didn’t feel ‘human’ to me, survival is a powerful force which usually means that you’ve got to play the game with the rules given. And you quickly learn that challenging the status quo is a risky proposition – even when the status quo isn’t working for you or other humans.
While it’s long overdue, we are starting to see change happen in the workplace. We are seeing inclusive leadership become an expectation, with human-centered leadership becoming the ultimate goal.
I am pleased to see this shift happening, and I am committed to being an inclusive leader who models the way for our clients, my team, and the Hummingbird community. Admittedly, I get it wrong sometimes. Being a leader isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being human. The old paradigms, and the experiences I’ve had, sometimes influence how I react or lead on a given day, but I desire to shift those paradigms and help create human-centered workplaces.
Here are a few ways that I approach inclusive leadership as I work to do better and make change happen:
- Stay curious. I recognize that I don’t know it all. I ask questions. I listen. I stay open to learning and new perspectives. I actively try to learn about the lived experiences of others, especially those who have different identities than mine. I also believe people when they tell me their stories.
- Invite feedback. I will make mistakes, and I will get it wrong. I invite the people I Iead to give me feedback and to tell me when I miss the mark. I remind myself to practice gratitude because they respect me enough to tell me when I get it wrong.
- Acknowledge experiences. What we endure as humans and how we were raised and conditioned isn’t in our control. If I’m aware that my ‘default’ approach might be less than ideal, I can be conscious enough to unlearn what I was taught. I can shift my approach while acknowledging how my upbringing and experiences have influenced me.
- Own mistakes. To be human means to be imperfect, and It’s okay to be a flawed human. When I get something wrong, I own it and apologize. While I try to learn from these mistakes, it is a never-ending process of learning and growing so I can do better.
- Seek guidance. Recognizing that my default programming may be flawed, I often pause and ask for guidance or input before I move forward. Whether it means processing with my therapist or getting input from my team, I remind myself that I don’t have to do it alone.
I won’t pretend that I have it all figured out. The goal isn’t to be perfect (ps: perfection isn’t attainable). The goal is to show up in a way that helps others feel welcome, seen, heard, and valued. To create an environment where the people I have the privilege to lead know they can be fully imperfect humans who will never have to assimilate and that their unique experiences and capabilities make Hummingbird and me better.
This is my approach to leading inclusively. It’s fueled by empathy, vulnerability, and humility and informed by listening and learning. When I get it wrong, I get back up, brush myself off, and try again—one step at a time.
CEO / Founder
he / him / LGBTQ+
Brian McComak is a consultant, speaker, author, and facilitator with over 25 years of experience in DEI, HR, culture, change management, internal communications, and employee experience. He is an openly gay man and a person with a disability who shares his lived experiences in service of fostering workplaces where humans thrive.
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