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Six Traits of Inclusive Leadership

The 6 Cs of Inclusive Leadership: Text on a red and orange background with a black and white photo of Shirley Davis
Dr. Shirley Davis

“If you think you’re a leader and nobody is following you, you’re just taking a walk. Inclusive leaders walk the walk and live the values. They’re creating organizational cultures where people feel they can thrive and succeed.”

These are the words Dr. Shirley Davis recently shared at the Nonprofit Leadership Center’s 2021 Leadership Conference. Dr. Davis is the president and CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, Inc., a woman- and minority-owned C-Corporation that works with leaders to create more inclusive and high-performing workplaces where all talent can thrive.

Dr. Davis described culture as the values, beliefs and behaviors of an organization. She said, “Culture is like the wind; you can’t always see it, but you can always feel it.”

So how can leaders create an inclusive culture? Dr. Davis says it comes down to six things.

The Six Cs of Inclusive Leadership

Dr. Shirley Davis says highly inclusive leaders demonstrate the following attributes:

1. Commitment: They are committed to diversity and inclusion because these objectives align with their personal values. They create a culture of belonging and high performance.

2. Courage: They are willing to speak up and challenge the status quo and are willing to have difficult conversations.

3. Cognizance of bias: They are mindful of personal and organizational blind spots and self-regulate to ensure “fair play.”

4. Curiosity: They have an open mindset and a desire to understand how others view and experience the world.

5. Cultural Intelligence: They are confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions. They practice self-reflection and discovery in order to build honest and trustworthy relationships.

6. Collaboration: They empower individuals as well as create and leverage the thinking of diverse groups.

Dr. Davis also shared that workers want their leaders to be authentic and transparent, trustworthy, inspirational, willing to take risks and allow risk-taking, and aware and empowering.

“There’s a reason the word inclusion starts with ‘I,’” Dr. Davis says. There are things each of us can and must do every day to be more inclusive leaders. “The platinum rule trumps the golden rule. It’s not about treating people the way you want to be treated. You’ve got to treat people the way they want to be treated. People have different needs, work ethics and expectations. Step into your vulnerability and discomfort. Belonging leads to believing.”

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Dr. Shirley Davis

Dr. Shirley Davis is a seasoned HR and diversity and inclusion global thought leader, senior executive, certified leadership coach, and former chief diversity and inclusion officer for several Fortune 100 companies. Dr. Davis is the author of the best-selling books, Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life” and The Seat: How to Get Invited to the Table When You’re Over-Performing and Undervalued. She has been a featured expert on NBC’s The Today Show, USA Today, National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal, Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise Magazine, The Washington Post, and Inclusion Magazine.

As president and CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, Inc., a woman and minority-owned C-Corporation headquartered in Tampa Bay, she works with leaders to create more inclusive and high-performing workplaces where all talent can thrive.

Photo of Dr. Shirley Davis, a Black woman with short black hair wearing a striped maroon top

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