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Inclusive Leadership - Learning Pathway

By: Gayathri Shukla, May 1, 2024
Facilitating the inaugural 'Navigating Difference' Workshop, 2021

One week after the brutal murder of George Floyd Jr., a dedicated committee of Guided Autobiography instructors came together on a vision for an inclusive curriculum that provides all participants with optimum opportunities to listen to, and share stories of race, ethnicity and difference. I joined this committee, along with other members: Cheryl Svensson, Dawn Robbins, Caroline Manheimer, Mee Joo Kim, Alberto Pulido, Mimi Holmes, Heidi Thorsen, Jean Stumpf, Jerry Waxler, Iowana Whitman-Tims, Valerie Biden, Roselyn O’Connell, and M. Esra Yildiim. 

Over the coming weeks and months, we combed through every question and word in the standard curriculum, engaged in brave and personal conversations about race; class; non-conforming genders; extended, adoptive and blended families; events that happened before we were born and more. 

In April 2021, we launched the refreshed curriculum and workshop series, Navigating Differences, to over 60 worldwide participants at the instructor community’s inaugural conference on equity and inclusion.

This leads me to an important question: what role does storytelling play in fostering inclusive leadership?

Simply put, it is fundamental.

Storytelling creates “brave spaces” where individuals feel safe to share their authentic experiences. It enables us to discuss sensitive topics like race and difference without burdening individuals with the responsibility of representing entire communities. It also helps us uncover the implicit biases in our own narratives.

Inclusive Leadership – Learning Pathway

The experience of facilitating the “Navigating Differences” series reinforced my belief in the power of storytelling as an effective tool to navigate complex issues like race and privilege. Beyond just making a business case for diversity, which is already well-supported by evidence showing that gender and ethnically diverse teams perform better financially, storytelling and empathy are central to transforming EDI awareness into actionable change.

Where many well-meaning leaders falter is in the practical implementation of EDI initiatives. Conversations might raise awareness but often revert to business as usual, or worse, become contentious and cause further divisions. EDI discussions, intertwined with our identities, can evoke feelings of guilt, trauma, and fear—making the conversation about what to say and how to say even more treacherous.

However, integrating storytelling as a strategic skill simplifies this complexity. It develops empathy, fostering a shift from mere awareness to meaningful action.

Since 2021, I have had the privilege of supporting hundreds of leaders through an experiential process involving a customized learning path through our live workshops and online courses.  The outcomes are clear:

– Develop a foundational understanding of diversity, including concepts like identity, intersectionality, and privilege.
– Reflect on your personal values and how they align with the goals of inclusive leadership.
– Recognize the vital role of empathy and storytelling in cultivating a sense of belonging.
– Use empathy to transition from safe to brave spaces that promote authentic dialogue and dispel myths about differences.
– Enhance allyship by deepening connections with people from diverse backgrounds.

If you are ready to transform theoretical understanding into practical action and lead your team with inclusivity, please reach out. Let’s make meaningful change together!

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