Inclusive Leadership: Letting go of Unconscious Biases

If you didn’t read Sheila’s story, go ahead and read it here. Sheila needed not just a great manager, but an inclusive manager. She had already received complaints from parents and her teaching assistants, and there appeared to be some disgruntled noise from other teachers as well. Sheila was a new hire in a new country and at risk of being alienated at her workplace. So what could her manager do?

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This story came to my mind while studying the edX course on Inclusive Leadership. How could a manager approach Sheila, what could h/she say to her. There are two priorities the manager is faced with in this case:

  • the teaching and learning quality in the classroom
  • to ensure Sheila settled in well into the new country, new school, with her new colleagues.

Neither is more important than the other although from the point of view of the school, the manager might feel a certain amount of pressure to make Sheila conform to the rules and follow the syllabus stringently.

The ability of a good leader, as we have seen before, is to put themselves in the shoes of their reports. If you put yourselves in Sheila’s shoes, I’m sure you’ll figure that the first thing that needs to be addressed is how Sheila is coping with the move to a new country, new surroundings, new people. Once she begins to feel more included, more valued in her new environment, it will become easier for her manager to align Sheila with the vision of the school and the teaching methodologies they would like her to follow.

I shared Catalyst’s EACH plan for inclusive leaders. How would Sheila’s academic manager keep EACH in mind in their interactions together?

E – Empowerment allows people to do things their way.
The manager should probably speak to Sheila about her teaching practice and why she chooses to teach the way she does. By understanding the reasons behind her choices, Sheila would feel valued and may be able to offer sound pedagogical theories behind what she was doing in class. Perhaps, if Sheila has a solid background in integrating music and pedagogy, she could be encouraged to design and deliver in-service training sessions to other staff members!

A – Accountability holds people responsible for their own actions.
The manager should ask Sheila to consider the effect of her choices on the learning quality in the classroom, and hold her accountable for these. In this case, it may mean a discussion on the need to cater to multiple intelligences, and mentoring Sheila in planning lessons that appeal to a diverse set of students.

C – Courage helps people put larger interests above personal ones.
Sheila’s manager should have the conviction and the confidence to identify and acknowledge what is best for Sheila, her students, and the school. If they find that Sheila can effectively contribute to the emergence of new perspectives on integrating music in the classroom, her manager should actively advocate for her with the staff and other managers. If they find Sheila’s personal interest in music impedes learning quality in the classroom, they should engage in dialogue and Sheila should be advised a teacher development plan.

H – Humility fosters connections, encourages people to learn from one another, and demonstrate vulnerability and trust.
Sheila’s manager needs to be aware of their own unconscious biases – if they feel strongly about the use of music in class one way or the other, they should open themselves up to new perspectives and ideas. They should be ready to learn from Sheila, admit their own lack of understanding (if that is the case).

What do you think? Do the ideas above fulfill the EACH paradigm an inclusive leader would follow? Is there something else we should add to the list of suggestions?

 

So what do you think?

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