Resonant Leadership for All Leaders

Dr. Patricia Arredondo
Arredondo Advisory Group

Emotional intelligence and cultural competency are integral to leadership in organizations. With heightened conversations and plans to centralize DEI efforts in organizations, theoretical foundations also matter. The people leading the way require a mindset for transformation and possibilities but also means to engage the majority to come along. DEI efforts are often controversial because they create new learning curves and emotional discomfort, thus leaders require effective ways to communicate about priorities, approaches to change, and expectations of the workforce.

Cultural Competency

Models of cultural competency present a tripartite approach to DEI leadership: cultural self-awareness, knowledge of others, knowledge of contextual factors (i.e., societal and political), and how these contribute to responsive behavior in a diverse workforce. For example, 2020 introduced an interplay of societal conditions that differentially affected individuals. Women assumed more work and family responsibilities, persons of color in service roles became unemployed sooner and had greater health risks, and younger workers faced threats of unemployment because they were the last hired. Leaders must be aware of these scenarios, how they think and feel about them, and the behavioral approaches they will take to support and make the necessary changes for their organizations through a DEI lens. 

Resonant Leadership

The model of emotional intelligence is applied widely in organizations and often related to inclusive leadership. The four tenets are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management, aligning well with a cultural competency mindset. Leading inclusively in a diverse workforce of individuals with intersecting identities requires a heightened attention to relationship management. A resonant leader attends to relationships, is people-centered and skilled in listening and expressing empathy. Although often considered soft skills, because relational matters are often attributed to women, when it comes to leadership, everyone requires social awareness and empathy to create a fair, respectful, equitable, and inclusive work environment. In my study of Latina leaders, I learned that their leadership was resonant, based on their values, social awareness, empathy, and relationship management.

Inclusive Leadership though a DEI Lens

The DEI spotlight in organizations has introduced terminology about inclusionary practices. What we know is that inclusive leadership practices require intentionality with plans for transformation informed by all sectors of the internal organization and other constituencies. At universities, student voices matter; hospitals need to hear from their patients as well as their employees; city governments have to know how services are delivered and their equitability to different demographic groups; and  corporations need to take a pulse of their diverse customer base. Inclusive leadership through a DEI lens is not about delegating but about participating, modeling, and demonstrating that collective energy and efforts are needed to advance equity and inclusion plans for the immediate and the long-term.