The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What is the most important quality a leader should demonstrate?” is by Rich Cavallaro, president and CEO of Skanska USA.
Many of us have been in a meeting where we had something valuable to add to the conversation, but for one reason or another didn’t feel comfortable speaking up. For this reason, I believe inclusivity — being open to and accommodating ideas and thoughts different from our own — is the most important quality a leader can have.
The importance of workplace inclusion is quite clear: The more included employees feel, the more innovative they are in their jobs. However, often times it is up to the leader to make sure diverse viewpoints are heard. If you see someone in a group being stifled by a wave of opinion going in another direction, it’s your job to halt the conversation and make that employees thoughts are at least considered.
Often times, a piece of what is said will tie into another thought which will tie into yet another thought, and eventually you’ll have a solution that you wouldn’t have had if that employee didn’t have the chance to offer their perspective. In addition to helping the voices of others be heard, it’s equally important for a leader to keep an open mind. It’s easy to get caught up in your own ideas or what the group at large is thinking, and accidentally ignore what is best for your organization.
It takes practice, guidance and most of all awareness, to be more inclusive in our day-to-day activities. After all, most people don’t intend to be non-inclusive; rather, they likely don’t recognize the effects of their words and behaviors. To deal with this problem at Skanska we recently launched Inclusive Leadership Workshops. These small-group interactive sessions are designed to promote conversations that demystify inclusive leadership, and clarify that we all have a responsibility to promote inclusion.
Even after a year as CEO, I’m still not as inclusive as I want to be. Inclusive leadership is something that you need to continuously think about and strive for. When I think about the power a diverse group of people bound together by an inclusive culture can have on a company, it’s an incredible force.