DEI: Developmental and Inclusive Leadership Skills

July 17, 2020

EN Sparks Conversation: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Virtual Series 

DEI Trends and Issues/Developmental and Inclusive Leadership Skills

The following member companies: Legal & General, Amgen, Dow, IBM, Eni, Wyndham Destinations, Swiss Re, Liberty Mutual, Micron, BNP Paribas, TJX Companies, MSKCC, TE Connectivity, Anglo American, Mars, Schlumberger, BASF, BT Group, Church & Dwight, nVent, Colfax, GSK, PMI, Mastercard, ING, and Prudential participated in our inaugural EN Sparks Conversation: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion session on DEI Trends and Issues/Developmental and Inclusive Leadership Skills, with thought leaders Akasha and Carolyn Coughlin from Cultivating Leadership.

During this session, Akasha and Carolyn explored the current trends around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and explained why they should matter. They also discussed complexity and a framework to manage it. DEI is complex—it is important to practice different ways of listening to get the conversations started. Understanding how you see and engage with DEI issues is imperative for using yourself as an instrument and aligning with the solutions to the problems.

DEI Trends

Akasha gave a brief overview of DEI trends. Some of these included:

  • Gender Identity and Expression
  • Mental Health: Trauma, Emotional Tax, and Compassion/Inaction Fatigue
  • Call for White Humility in Response to Black Rage and Resistance
  • Culture First (Stakeholders next) and more calls for org./system overhauls

There is also a call for employees and leaders to be respectful of and engaging—but also making the space for the trauma that people of color, particularly Black people, are experiencing. Some organizations are thinking about overhauling their culture and expanding what diversity means. It is important for organizations to name and be explicit about what diversity they are talking about (ex: differences of culture, differences of thought, etc.). Several organizations are experiencing more distributed teams increasing the need to support these leaders to make room for many cultural differences. People want to see the data and numbers around DEI. It is also important to have diversity and inclusion analysis.

Akasha and Carolyn led a poll asking attendees to identify which trend most reflects the challenge at their organization. The top three responses were the “Demand for difficult conversations about race, politics, gender” (29%), “Data” (25%), and “Expanding Diversity” (21%).

Akasha explained that it is important to be intentional about looking at power within the organization, to see what data gets collected and shared, and who gets to decide what is important—and why. Look at what level in the organization needs to address what issue, and what level of complexity brings to each to each issue.

Cynefin Framework

The Cynefin Framework is a guide on how to approach and manage complexity. Carolyn shared that the first step is to address the problem and make sense of it in light of your role as a leader. This framework helps clarify challenges and their impacts on the organization. It divides the unpredictable (Complex and Chaotic) from the predictable (Complicated and Obvious).


Some of the questions that were posed to Akasha and Carolyn were around:

  • Making the LGBT policy known to government-controlled oil companies
  • Managing the problem around the lack of knowledge and being comfortable with your own ignorance to open the doors for increased learning and to see different perspectives
  • Focusing on listening and learning and leading with your own vulnerabilities as leaders
  • Addressing your own contribution to racism and putting in the effort to challenge things

If your team is dealing with similar issues or have questions you’d like answered please fill out the form below!

DEI Trends and Issues/Developmental and Inclusive Leadership Skills Blog

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