Why Authentic Leadership Must be Part of Your DEI Strategy as We Start to Return to In-Person Work

Ritu Bhasin presenting

Lately there’s been more and more talk about the world opening up, with many workplaces starting to make plans for a return to in-person work or, more likely, some form of hybrid work environment this fall. Although there is plenty of excitement around “getting back to normal”, after over a year of working remotely during the pandemic, the prospect of returning to the workplace is feeling daunting for many.

Employees have been expressing numerous reasons for not wanting to return to in-person working: preferring the more casual nature of working from home, not having to adhere to a strict dress code, enjoying the increased productivity that comes with fewer workplace distractions and appreciating the flexibility working remotely offers caregivers. And one of the major factors that we’ve been hearing is a strong desire to maintain the spirit of authenticity that has been created and nurtured in many workplaces as a result of being able to work from home.

As you may know, at bci we’re vocal advocates for authenticity as the foundational building block for cultivating inclusion. By authenticity, I’m referring to the consistent practice of choosing to know, embrace and be who you are — especially what makes you different and unique — as often as possible, so that you feel better about yourself, you bring this spirit to your interactions and, in so doing, you invite others to do the same.

In my book The Authenticity Principle, I emphasize that authentic leadership — leadership that is rooted in authenticity — is fundamental for normalizing differences, unlocking experiences of belonging, addressing attrition and moral issues and creating cultures of empowerment, innovation and creativity. Authenticity is critical for leadership; employees are more likely to experience higher levels of workplace wellbeing, to feel more engaged, satisfied and empowered and to develop more trusting relationships with leaders who are authentic. (And of course, all of this grows profitability too.)

If there has ever been a moment of validation for the critical importance of authenticity, it is now. In the thick of the pandemic and the racial injustice crisis that shone a critical spotlight on anti-Black racism, we made great strides in cultivating authenticity in the workplace, with team members and leaders alike opening up about the myriad inclusion challenges they were facing, from heightened bias to diminished mental health and more.

The extent to which your team members will continue to feel comfortable talking about their inclusion challenges or about racial injustice in person directly ties back to whether authenticity is woven into the fabric of your organizational culture. To put this another way, it’s imperative that you create an organizational culture where everyone feels safe to speak, share and be who they are — whether your team is continuing to work remotely, returning to work in-person or transitioning into a hybrid of the two.

To make this happen, leaders must embrace authenticity in how they work and lead in order to address inclusion challenges and inequities and create inclusive workplace norms. As a leader who wants to foster authenticity at work, there are many things you can do, from learning more about authentic leadership (download bci’s free Tip Sheet here) to providing opportunities for training to mastering the principles of authentic living.

I have numerous videos and blogs on how to live, work and lead more authentically at ritubhasin.com, including free self-reflection work sheets on understanding your Authentic Self , Performing Self and Adapted Self and you can also download bci’s Tip Sheet on Authentic Leadership here.

As the world opens up, it’s so important that we continue to prioritize authenticity as part of our DEI efforts. By anchoring to authenticity, we have a unique opportunity to course correct how we were working before and create workplaces that are happier, healthier and more productive, successful and inclusive.

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Is there a DEI subject area you’re interested in learning more about or a question you’d like us to answer? Email your thoughts and questions to info@bhasinconsulting.com.

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