BOOK REVIEW

The Boldly Inclusive Leader

By Minette Norman

Reviewed by Karen Tkaczyk

I

nclusive leadership takes hard work. There are no simple formulas in The Boldly Inclusive Leader: Transform Your Workplace (and the World) by Valuing the Differences Within by Minette Norman. Rather, Norman invites readers to embrace discomfort, accept challenges, and practice every day. She also invites readers to be bold about being inclusive — in her words, to be “unflinching in the face of resistance.”

A longtime software industry leader and sought-after speaker, Norman draws on extensive experience to demonstrate that habits are not just actions we repeat. On the contrary, they are in fact the building blocks of our lives and personalities. With a blend of advice, strong anecdotes, and numerous practical steps, Norman demonstrates how anyone can become a better leader in and out of the workplace.

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The author’s stated goal is “to help you overcome any apprehension, discomfort, or inertia you may have about the work of inclusive leadership.” Does she achieve this? I’d say so.

As with all great books on leadership, this one calls for a great deal of self-examination and humility. That’s where we begin. The initial chapters focus on personal growth, and they speak to all — not just those in management roles. Everyone is better off for being able to name and improve their emotional responses, to be able to deal with difficult or uncomfortable conversations, and to improve their listening skills. I particularly enjoyed Chapter Two, “Getting Uncomfortable: Moving Boldly Toward Discomfort,” and I immediately applied several of the insights and practice tips from Chapter Three on better listening.

The second portion of the book is about making connections with people. How authentic and open are we? Do we show compassion? What is appropriate compassion in the workplace? And do we limit some of all those characteristics to people who are like us? That common weakness must be overcome for those embracing inclusivity. Norman explores strength and weakness as it relates to those character traits and offers very practical bite-size ideas for growing our own abilities.

To conclude, the obvious next step is putting all that into action with inclusive team dynamics. The chapter on going beyond mentoring to become a sponsor and ally was fresh and insightful for me, as was the one on creating a psychologically safe environment. I haven’t seen those topics explained so clearly and simply. Once teams are safe spaces, Norman encourages levity and joy: “Laughter and playfulness also contribute to joy at work.” I wholeheartedly agree. As if the book wasn’t practical already, the portion on running inclusive meetings (online and off) was top notch.

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This practical, insightful book is a must-read for anyone interested in growth in this area. Norman comes across as authentic and honest. And there is nothing cliquey or off-putting in her examples. The tone taken throughout, to this reader at least, was appealing. The Daily and Weekly Practice tips and sets of questions that end each chapter are so practical that I’d be surprised if any person reading the book with reflection left it unaffected or unchallenged. Surely all will be one step closer to being — at the very least — a more pleasant person to work with. And many readers will adopt more inclusive practices very quickly by applying even a few of the nuggets of wisdom provided.

And what about boldness? The examples throughout the book include marvelous models of boldness in action. Readers will be inspired. Let us be inclusive personally, and bold about it when we are in a position to model that behavior in a leadership role.

KAREN TKACZYK is a chemist-turned-freelance translator, specializing in scientific translation. She is an ATA-certified French>English translator and a fellow of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

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