Advancing Inclusion through Strategic Coalition Building
In light of concurrent health and economic crises and growing challenges to democratic practices across Europe and the United States, inclusive leadership is more crucial than ever. However, it may not be immediately evident how leaders can simultaneously rise to challenges of the current movement amidst increasing political polarization and address longstanding issues of diversity and inclusion. The question facing most high-level leaders now is: What are the next steps to develop our internal awareness and that of those we influence, to take diversity and inclusion to the next level? Inclusive leaders are striving to relate across generations, cultures, borders, and across the full range of diversity factors to build understanding and find solutions. As a result, strategic coalition building is crucial to advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives and can only be achieved by boosting competencies in communicating across generations, emotional intelligence, and confronting bias.
Inclusive leaders are interdisciplinary in approach and able to build coalitions across diversity markers, organizations, and sectors in order to gain the influence needed to make lasting change. Strategic coalitions benefit mostly from their diversity. Diverse people bring different contacts, can reach a greater audience and therefore bring additional opportunities. Optimal coalitions should reach the grassroots as well as decision makers with the same ease. Teams should be intergenerational, interracial, and represent many different backgrounds to ensure that networks are reflective of the community at large. Networks of diverse people provide more creative solutions, new ideas, and powerful answers to problems because of the different kinds of perspectives brought to the table.
In order to build strong coalitions, it is important to appreciate broader shifts in how younger generations view, value, and approach work. Technology has changed the landscape in how youth go about relationship building and how they access information. Technology has changed their ability to accept things as given, because they can find out more information on their own. This is a generational shift in values in which the new normal is transparency and authenticity. Thus, it is increasingly imperative to create an environment where people will want to stay and engage. Moreover, strong coalitions capitalize on the younger generations’ eagerness for things that are new and changing and create intergenerational connections by harnessing the imagination and creative exploration of all team members to deepen investment and engagement.
Strategic coalition building also requires that leaders display emotional intelligence, or EQ. EQ is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Furthermore, Global EQ builds on the social and emotional intelligence and empathy that research has demonstrated are essential to effective leadership at the global level. One of the main barriers to effectively deploying EQ at the interpersonal and global levels is unconscious bias. Biases about people different than ourselves are in part hard wired, and this makes it all the more important to include diverse voices in the room in order to mitigate each other’s blind spots. GMF’s Inclusive Leadership Hub identifies two key levels of action in moving beyond bias. First, we require leaders who are courageous enough to recognize and address structural inequalities that still hold our countries back. This includes addressing both personal and structural barriers to political participation that some groups face, as well as broader inequalities in terms of access to opportunity and resources. Second, inclusive leaders strive to improve systems and mindsets, to counter discrimination at its root, directly addressing and compensating for conscious as well as unconscious bias, both our own and others’.
GMF encourages leaders with specific constituencies to be open to learning and building coalitions across diversity factors. Inclusive leaders build these coalitions’ support by articulating their goals to groups across sectors such as politics, education, technology, labor, civil society, and the private sector, enabling all parties to see their shared interests. As we move to a post-coronavirus world, inclusive leadership and strategic coalition building will be key to charting an inclusive economic recovery, regulating the role of tech in our lives and societies, and strengthening our democracies. GMF remains committed to cultivating these skills as 21st century leadership competencies by creating networks for support, best practice exchange, and increasing advocacy for more inclusive policies, most notably through the Transatlantic Inclusive Leaders Network fellowship program, the ongoing Inclusion Strategists Series, and upcoming Tech for Inclusion Summit.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.