How to be an inclusive leader

Embracing differences – an International Women’s Day special

👋🏻 Welcome to Refresh. Rethink. Grab a coffee, and let's talk about next-generation leadership (and maybe some gossip).

One of the things I have found most challenging as a leader was adapting my leadership style to different people. I don't want to generalize too much, but learning how to lead men and women in a way that suits them was tough. I imagine a lot of other leaders might feel the same way.

First and foremost, I think it is important to recognize differences in how men and women communicate, approach problem-solving, and lead others.

It's also important to acknowledge that these differences are not absolute and that there is a wide range of variability within each gender. Being aware of this is where it all starts.

Her approach was not "one size fits all" but tailored to everybody's needs.

For several years in my 20s, I had an inspiring female leader as my boss. She was a regional director, and she understood very well how to lead me as a male. At the same time, she led women equally well. Her approach was not "one size fits all" but tailored to everybody's differences.

Here are the 2x3 things I've learned from her.

3 ways how my female boss led me as a male effectively:

  1. She was direct and assertive: In my experience, men respond best to direct and assertive communication. So did I. When giving me feedback, she would always be unequivocal and concise. I'd even say she presented black-and-white things that fit my style. And I also saw how this "yes or no" approach fits the men under my leadership.

  2. She didn't shy away from conflict: At the workplace, conflict can create opportunities that help us address issues and move forward. My boss wasn't afraid to engage in healthy and respectful conflict. It made me trust her even more!

  3. She created opportunities for collaboration: I have a healthy level of competition, and so do many men and women. However, men tend to be more self-centered when it comes to competition compared to women. She understood this well and always created situations where everyone – men and women – would be encouraged to go for shared and not just personal victories.

3 Things I've learned from my female boss on leading women:

  1. She taught me to be empathetic and approachable: As a male, I tend to go for the win. It would make me very direct and less approachable. I've learned that taking time to listen to and understand others made everyone, especially women, feel more included as team members.

  2. She taught me to encourage idea sharing: In male-dominated environments, women can find it more challenging to share their thoughts. But new ideas shouldn't only come from those who speak the loudest! I've learned to seek new ideas, especially from team members proactively. Women, not the loudest men, often came up with the most creative ideas that made a difference.

  3. She taught me to foster a positive team culture: Men tend to look for flaws in everything, looking for things to fix, not necessarily appreciating the good stuff. I am sure like that, and so were many of my male colleagues. But negativity ("we lag, we need to fill this gap now") was more challenging to handle, especially for our female colleagues. My boss taught me how to frame challenges positively, which helped everyone feel more included.

Differences in gender are complex, and becoming of them and learning to adapt your style makes you a next-generation leader.

Leadership is a never-ending learning process, and there is no Nirvana in leadership. However, becoming more empathic, encouraging idea sharing, and fostering positivity have made me a more inclusive leader to different people.

Inclusive leadership is about adapting to everyone’s differences.

Thais Compoint

And how are you building inclusivity in your leadership style?

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I hope you got something out of it,

See you next week


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