Inclusive Leadership: Integration of Differences

By Stephanie Beltz & Maryam Shariati

Integrating differing viewpoints is central to any good decision-making process, yet leaders often struggle with this. Bias blind spots prevent leaders from realizing that additional stakeholders should contribute to the discussion (and who those individuals are). Other times, the right people are in the room, but a lack of trust or psychological safety enable groupthink despite the leader actively soliciting diverse opinions. Here are some suggestions for addressing these inclusion dilemmas:

  1. Consider inviting colleagues from outside your business unit to provide their perspective on ideas, strategy, or upcoming projects. You might assume that someone in a faraway corner of the organization lacks the context to provide useful insight, but it is this very distance from the problem set that allows them to apply greater objectivity.
  2. Not sure who those stakeholders are that you should invite? Ask each member of your team who theywould include at the next meeting and ask if they would mind setting up an introduction.
  3. In the brainstorming phase of new initiatives, use inclusive practices to ensure everyone on your team feels welcome to contribute in their own unique way. For instance, while some people thrive on generating ideas in a group setting, others work best brainstorming independently and then sharing later in the group. Inquire with each team member to gauge how they feel most comfortable contributing to the process.
  4. To encourage candid feedback, refrain from providing your ideas or opinions until everyone on your team has offered theirs first. On a similar note, try this prompt instead of simply asking what someone thinks: “Tell me something you think I don’t know, that I don’t want to hear.”
  5. Assign a devil’s advocate or “criticizer” in your next meeting where an important decision is to be made. By assigning someone to this role, the leader signals two important conditions of inclusion: 1) that they expect adversarial viewpoints to be part of the conversation and 2) that there are no social repercussions to the person providing them.

For a structured activity that facilitates uninhibited discussions and creativity in an effort to solve problems or explore new opportunities, try the pre-mortem exercise provided below. Inclusive by design, it allows for those individuals who may not normally be part of the conversation to have their voices heard in the decision-making process.


Stephanie Beltz

Senior Learning Designer

Stephanie Beltz, Ph.D., is a Senior Learning Designer on McChrystal Academy, where she leverages the latest insights from organizational, social, and behavioral research to design, develop, and implement leadership solutions for our clients.

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Maryam Shariati

Senior Principal

Maryam Shariati, Ph.D., is a Senior Principal, responsible for designing and implementing strategy and leadership development services to drive individual growth and higher performance for teams and organizations. She has worked with clients across a range of industries, including biotechnology, healthcare, financial services, energy, and government sector, among others.

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