Rising Above: How People & Leaders Can Cultivate Inclusive Environments

leadership thriving tribe

Welcome to July's Blog

In this month's video blog, I share a post about a very difficult and unnerving situation I recently encountered and how support and leadership can impact outcomes.  I hope you will find it helpful in your life and leadership journey. For a full version of the transcript, please see below.  

Hi there, and welcome to the leah jm dean blog. 

Typically, I will post every month and I'm usually writing something on how you can transform your tribes in life or leadership, or sharing wellness tips or anything that I think will be useful to my audience. However, this month I wanted to try something a little bit different. I thought I would post a video on an experience that I had a few days ago. 

So this July, I hosted my first ever women's leadership retreat, and a few days after that I went to a conference in Florida and on my, I believe it was my second day, I was walking to the line to grab my lunch, and a woman came up to me and she said, I really know I shouldn't, I know I shouldn't, but I just want to pet your hair. As I was kind of processing what had happened, you know, I don't necessarily enjoy someone telling me that they wanted to pet me like a puppy. There was a gentleman to my right and I heard him just sigh and he said, I just have some really good content for my next DEI seminar.

Now, as I looked at the lady out of the left side of my eye, I could tell that she wasn't necessarily trying to be disparaging or malicious, but in that moment, her words reduced me to a place that was frustrating, and it made me think about the fact that sometimes we can be so insensitive with our own wants, that we create environments where people feel excluded, where people feel frustrated, where people have to relive their trauma. Anyway, the gentleman and I, we went off, uh, to the table to enjoy our lunch, and we talked about our experiences and how there was still so much work that we need to do in terms of increasing sensitivity in the DEI space. 

I continued to think about it over the next few days as I reflected on how I show up and what I do to create spaces where people can belong and experience belonging. And sometimes, the words that I might use are the things that I might say that create a sense of exclusion or disconnection. A day or two later, I was at another event at the same conference. Actually, it was just a day later, and a woman walked over to me. She happened to be a member of the board for the organization, and she walked over and she simply said, 

“I'm so sorry. I'm sorry that that's something that you had to experience here. Even if you are not frustrated or bothered, I need you to know that I'm sorry and that we want more for this organization and that we deserve that you, we believe that you deserve better.”

In that one conversation. Not that she could remove what happened or change what happened, but in that one conversation, she demonstrated through her leadership that she was willing to bend over backward or go out of her way to make a difference. With those few short words, she reminded me that she could see me, and she reminded me that I belonged. She also reminded me that the organization understood that it was imperfect but that it was putting in the work to make a difference. 

So whether you're a leader or not, every day we have these opportunities to create spaces and places where people get to feel like they belong and included. And so I just wanted to share that story with you because maybe you've been on the receiving end of a comment that's caused you some trauma or an experience that has caused you some trauma. Surround yourself with people who will support you and help you to grow. And then, if you're a leader, never underestimate the impact that a few simple words can have on you. It just might be a few moments of your time, but for the other person on the receiving end, it could just be the thing that changes everything.


Meet The Author Leah JM Dean is a people strategy & executive recruitment advisor, coach, speaker, author of the best-selling book, Assemble the Tribe, and founder of the women's leadership program, the Tribe Advantage. She is on a mission to help women and organizations all across the globe transform their tribes in life and leadership. To learn more about Leah's work, events, or her best-selling book Assemble the Tribe visit www.leahjmdean.com. To join the waitlist for The Tribe Advantage Leadership Program, visit www.thetribeadvange.com . Leah lives in Bermuda with her husband and two children.