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INTERVIEW Dr. Anthony Giannoumis about How Inclusive Leadership can drive better Performance

Inclusive leadership is about using your position as a leader to create a more inclusive workplace for everyone. It is about recognizing your power and privilege as a leader, seeking an understanding of the needs of diverse teams, and creating an environment that allows everyone to succeed. Inclusive leadership is important because it helps create a culture of respect, acceptance, and collaboration among employees. It also helps to foster innovation and creativity by providing a safe space for people to share their ideas without fear of judgement. It can help reduce turnover rates as employees feel valued and respected and that they belong in their work environment. By investing in inclusive leadership training and practices, companies can ensure they are creating an equitable workplace for everyone.

The 7 Lovely Wins of Inclusive Leadership are drawn from a motivational keynote speech by Dr. Anthony Giannoumis. You can learn more about his work at 

  1. Inclusive design is necessary for some but awesome for everyone. It’s a new way to design with extreme users and stakeholders.
  2. Gamification drags your team out of their phone and into the zone. Make inclusion a competition to turn sighs into allies! 
  3. Hiring a “good fit” and a “better add”. Cognitively diverse teams outperform the competition. Difference is in demand. 
  4. It’s dangerous to go alone, but reverse mentoring surrounds you with support so you can see yourself in 360 degrees. 
  5. Non-violent communication turns vulnerability into validation and diverse teams into innovation machines. 
  6. Inclusion is not being color blind. It’s the opposite. Seeing in color enables you to overcome any adversity to diversity.
  7. You messed up but saying “I’m sorry ok?”, doesn’t cut it. Learn to apologize or get ready to eulogize your reputation.

What is your definition of Inclusive Design? When and how did your journey into this field begin?

Inclusive Design is the idea that we can use decision-making to enable everyone to participate in society. This applies conventionally to things like product design and user experience but equally applies to how we create social systems, policies, and organizations. It is an approach to design that takes into account the needs of all users, in particular those who have been socially excluded. My journey into this field began very gradually. I was a skeptic turned advocate because I saw the power that inclusive design can have for people to access and use technology equally. By understanding how people across the spectrum of human diversity interact with technology, I began to appreciate how Inclusive Design can create a more inclusive society.

What are your lines of work at the moment? In what areas are you currently taking your work forward?

I’ve spent the last two years working with experts in the field of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice and Belonging, what we call DEI+, to design a workshop called the Inclusion Game. What we’ve come up with is a brand new form of DEI+ training. We bring together teams of decision-makers and pit the teams against one another in 7 rounds of competition. What makes the Inclusion Game special is that we never tell the participants that it’s about inclusion. Actually, what we tell them is that they’re going to play an innovation game, but we let them know that there’s a secret red thread they have to discover along the way. Then after each round they receive scores, and the teams see how each other perform. At the end, we have a big reveal and showcase the science behind inclusion, reflect on good and bad case studies, and evaluate where their company is today and where they want to be in the future. We’ve gotten so much interest this year from our existing clients like Deloitte as well as new clients all around Europe.

What are the right questions that a Designer-Innovator should ask him/herself when designing a product, service or experience with the Universal and Inclusive Design approach?

My goal for designer-innovators would be for every design decision, that they have an angel on their shoulder reminding them to be mindful of the diverse range of people who will need to access and use their products and that those people do not all have the same opportunities. It is important to consider the impact of their design decisions on people, society, and the environmen, and to ensure that their designs are ethical and benefit people across the spectrum of human diversity. should ask themselves a few key questions. For example, they could ask themselves How can my design improve the lives of others? What unintended consequences might arise from my design choices? How can I ensure that my design is accessible and usable for everyone? And in what ways can I bring the voices of a diverse range of users, stakeholders or beneficiaries into the design process. Answering these questions will help designer-innovators create more responsible designs that make a positive difference in people’s lives.

What are some methods that an innovator can use to get closer to the user in order to be more inclusive?

As innovators, we need to get closer to the people that have a stake in our work in order to build products that are more inclusive and accessible. This means understanding our users’ needs and preferences using participatory or co-design methods. From user interviews and surveys to focus groups and usability testing, these methods can provide invaluable insights into how people interact with a product or service and can validate both the problem you’re trying to solve as well as help co-create the solution. By taking the time to get closer to and collaborate with a diverse range of users, we can create products that are truly tailored for their needs and make sure that everyone has access to them equally.

What are the values that lead your professional practice every day? What is the higher purpose that guides your activities, your research, your work every day?

My work is based on my value for and the benefits I get from living in a more equal society. It’s this core value that acts as a foundation and animates my decision-making. It also gives me the motivation to strive for excellence in what I do. As an entrepreneur, I am constantly trying to make a positive impact while ensuring my company has the economic sustainability for me and my team to flourish. In my previous career as an academic, I created new knowledge and taught my students the skills to create meaningful change and ensure a more inclusive and just world. This higher purpose drives me forward every day, and I am dedicated both professionally and personally to doing better and being better as I strive to give people the same opportunities I’ve been afforded throughout my life.

Do you think concrete steps are currently being taken toward a more inclusive world? Where is there still much work to be done and where do you recognise that progress has been made?

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on diversity and inclusion. From the workplace to our communities, people are starting to recognize the value of living in a more diverse and inclusive society. In many areas, concrete steps are being taken to make sure that everyone is not only given equal opportunities but that historically marginalized groups are given the support and accommodations they need in order to have an equal chance for success in life. 

However, there is still much work to be done to achieve a truly inclusive world. We need to continue to push for radical changes that will ensure social barriers that limit or prevent someone from participating in society are eliminated and that we take active steps against any efforts to marginalize or disadvantage someone because of their identity. We also need to pay attention to how our systems are intrinsically biased against groups of people in order to transform them to be more equitable for all people.

What top 5 skills do you consider to be essential for a good leader?

Being a good leader requires more than just a job title. It requires developing and honing the skills to help you foster an inclusive and equitable workplace. To be a successful leader, I believe you must possess the ability to create a culture of inclusion, one that values diversity, strives for equity, and ensures that everyone has a feeling of belonging. Being an inclusive leader is also about having clear values for justice, accessibility and equality. This means having the capacity to design initiatives that encourage participation from all employees regardless of their background or identity. With these skills in place, leaders can create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected while contributing to the success of the organization.

Do you think being a good leader is something you are born to be or something you can become?

Being a good leader is a skill that can be developed over time. I don’t believe you’re born with the ability, but there are some personality traits that people may see in you and encourage you to be a leader. I’m an introvert, so even though I speak in front of large audiences and have to interact with many people daily, I’ve had to learn and hone my skills with practice. To be an effective leader, I think it takes a positive attitude and a mindset that is more focused on empathy and support than command and control. This, I believe, is one of the primary skills that help motivate and inspire others. Leaders need to be able to clearly communicate a shared vision and belief system and use that shared mission to inspire those around them to take action. They must also have the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively while taking into consideration factors like inclusion and sustainability. Good leaders are not born, they are made through desire and intention.

What does innovation mean to you? In what ways does collaboration for innovation generate more inclusive products?

Innovation is a term that is often discussed a lot in decision-making circles. It usually describes a process of creating something new and better. At the heart of innovation is a clear value proposition, and for me, that value proposition has to have inclusion in its DNA. This relates to the need for collaboration in innovation. In order to generate more ideas and create solutions that solve real-world problems, teams need to take advantage of a diverse range of perspectives. By taking advantage of a diverse range of perspectives within teams, companies can create products and services that are more accessible, usable and beneficial for everyone. This type of collaboration requires trust, communication, and creativity, and it should encourage open discussion of diverse and even contradictory perspectives. This leads to products that are truly innovative.

List of the Mindset Masterclasses organized with Dr. Anthony Giannomis and Collabwith for 2023:

  • MINDSET MASTERCLASS: Inclusive Leadership vs Diversity Teams Leadership on Friday 10th March 2023 at 12noon CET.

How does a good leader select his or her collaborators on the team? What best practices have you learnt that you would like to share regarding this?

A good leader knows that the success of their team depends on trust. I believe trust in teams is about exchanging vulnerability for validation. Therefore, it is important for a leader to encourage and role model openness. It’s also important to understand each potential collaborator’s background and experience and make sure they are not just a good fit for but also a good add to the team. Leaders can then draw out the experiences of each member of the team to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute to decision-making and problem-solving. This will help foster collaboration and create an environment where everyone can thrive. It is also essential that leaders adapt their communication styles, expectations and goals so that everyone can work together. Finally, it is important for leaders to be open to receiving regular feedback so that they can continuously improve in their roles.

From your experience, how does emotional intelligence relate to leadership skills?

Emotional intelligence is an essential part of effective leadership. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are better equipped to understand and respond to their own needs as well as the needs of their team. In this way, they can create a positive working culture and motivate and inspire their team to reach their goals. They are also better able to recognize and manage their own emotions in order to remain calm, focused, and effective in difficult situations. By developing their emotional intelligence, leaders can become more self-aware, empathetic, and understanding of others which will enable them to be more successful in leading teams.

What books or movies would you recommend for leaders to learn to be more inclusive?

Believe it or not, as a former academic, I don’t actually read a lot. I recently read Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and that helped open my eyes up to the intergenerational experiences of women of color. Another book, which helped me be more confident in my diverse professional background is the book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. I am careful with what I read because I tend to take on-board a lot of the advice I get from books, so I usually wait until a trusted friend or colleague recommends a book before I sit down and open that first page. For movies, I’m a sucker for anything that centers an empowered person or persons from backgrounds that are underrepresented in film and tv. I ugly cried through most of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever because it hit some many emotional triggers for me, from the family dynamics to seeing the lead character rise up in her own position as a leader. It gave me all the feels.

What are your “Golden Rules” for Living?

My golden rule is to surround yourself with diversity. Make it an intention whether it’s your social group outside of work or the teams and networks that you belong to. Make seeking out different opinions and experiences a priority so that when you’re trying something new, you can reach out to people who you can trust to give you a new perspective even if that differs from your own experience or view.

More about Anthony, with our video interview.


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