How to act FAST when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

By: Katherine Baker

As the world rapidly changes and becomes more diverse, leaders must adapt their style to embrace the many individuals now dominating the work force. Leaders know that a change needs to happen. They are aware unconscious bias exists and stands in the way of inclusion. They know inclusive leadership is not only the moral way to lead but also good for business. However, the change in management and leaders is still slow. How can great leaders adapt quickly to keep up with these changing times?

Hayley Barnard, an expert on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias, spoke with me last week and divulged some professional advice. After studying world religions and specializing in Islam for an undergraduate degree, marrying a Baptist Minister, having two children with autism, a gay brother, being a woman in business with her first executive director post at age 26, co-leading a group of women across the Arctic Circle as part of a gender balance project and now training to swim across the English Channel, Hayley is a role model in inclusive leadership, changing mindsets and overcoming unconscious bias.

By using FAST, Hayley explains how to how to become an inclusive leader.


As a child, we are taught the golden rule “treat others as you would like to be treated.” However, that is not really accurate any longer. We should treat others as they would like to be treated which means we must actually care about and appreciate the value of individuality. Every individual has the potential for greatness, creativity and success. An inclusive leader gives everyone equal opportunities according to their unique abilities. They work to understand the individual and can then treat them fairly and according to their abilities, regardless of stereotypes.


While diversity is a reality, it is a choice to be inclusive. If a leader chooses to act inclusively, Hayley suggests following a structured process rather than relying on gut feel.  Start by listening, observing and learning about the differences in people. Then, implement a process that is inclusive and tailored to the individual members of your team. Make sure to lead by example as these positive actions will motivate others to change their non-inclusive behaviour. Communicate authentically and engagingly all the time. And finally, mentor and sponsor diverse people as this will help you to also become more aware and appreciate diverse ways of thinking and behaving.


An inclusive leader constantly asks, what is it like to be on the other side of me? They understand that they don’t know what they don’t know and strive to uncover blind-spots and biases including in-group bias, confirmatory bias, affinity bias, benevolence bias, implicit stereotype and group think. A self-aware leader never takes objectivity for granted but continuously asks for feedback and strives to uncover micro-behaviours and micro-inequalities including body language and mannerisms which could discourage or impair a team members performance.


Leadership is no longer about demanding respect from the top, issuing commands for others to follow and expecting loyalty just because of a title. Inclusive leadership is a two-way relationship built on trust. Inclusive leaders put “we” before “me”, believe remarkable things can be achieved collectively, and create environments where individuals feel safe to contribute their unique perspectives.

Hayley says, “The golden rule of inclusive leadership is to be the change you want to see. There has to be alignment between what you say and what you do as a leader.” Just being aware of unconscious bias is not enough. In fact, we need to change how we fundamentally think about people to create an atmosphere of inclusion. Inclusivity is more than a slogan, it is a way of life.

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