Managing Privilege as a Key to Inclusive Leadership

Managing Privilege as a Key to Inclusive Leadership

Doug Harris (Kaleidoscope Group, USA) and Kasia Ganko-Rodriguez (Kaleidoscope Group, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1812-1.ch008
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The field of diversity and inclusion has experienced exponential growth over last 30 years. Yet, while these progressions have occurred, many of the core diversity and inclusion concepts have remained fairly stagnant. One critical example is around the concept of privilege. All of us find ourselves privileged in some way, but leaders in particular need to recognize and manage privilege to ensure inclusion in the workplace. Through personal examples and real stories, this chapter highlights the many positive outcomes leaders will experience by effectively managing privilege. These powerful outcomes include areas such as personal growth and effectiveness, more authentic relationships, increased levels of respect, expanded circle of influence, and maximized employee performance. To conclude, the authors look at the stages leaders go through before they are able to effectively manage this expanded view of privilege. These stages can be described as bliss, awareness, overprotection, enlightened, and ultimately managing privilege.
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Background: Approaches To Privilege Within The Literature

In order to discuss how managing privilege is a key to inclusive leadership, a definition of privilege is presented along with how the topic has been addressed to date in the literature. Privilege is a concept that surfaces in a variety of arenas. It is used in common language and every-day speech, for example, I had the privilege to be included at last night’s event. It is a phenomenon that has been researched by scholars (e.g. Johnson, 2006; Kimmel & Ferber, 2010; Wildman, 1996). It is an area that has been studied in psychological experiments (e.g. Powell, Branscombe, & Schmitt, 2005). It is also a term frequently tossed around in the field of diversity of inclusion; for example, that group of employees must be privileged, I wonder if they are even aware of it? Through our work as Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) practitioners, consultants, and trainers, we have also experienced that the term frequently carries an emotional weight and evokes strong reactions. As Johnson (2006) noted, “privilege has become one of those loaded words we need to reclaim so that we can use it to name and illuminate the truth” (p. 21). Privilege has been defined and addressed in the literature in a number of ways.

McIntosh’s (1988) classic personal essay, White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to see Correspondence through Work in Women’s Studies, is a seminal work in the area of privilege. While McIntosh devoted the majority of the essay to the analysis of her own white privilege, she also recognized the need to expand the discussion beyond white and male privilege. Johnson (2006) credited McIntosh with identifying two types of privilege: “unearned entitlement” that should be granted to everyone but when restricted to some groups turns into “unearned advantage,” as well as “conferred power,” which “goes a step further by giving one group power over another” (pp. 22-23).

Historically, privilege has been frequently discussed in the context of oppression. Johnson (2006) believed oppression to be “the flip side of privilege” (p. 38) and Ferber (2010) stated: “privilege and oppression are two sides of the same coin” (p. 252). Hardiman, Jackson, and Griffin (2010) observed that “oppression is an interlocking, multileveled system that consolidates social power to the benefit of members of privileged groups and is maintained and operationalized on three dimensions: a) contextual dimension, b) conscious/unconscious dimension, and c) applied dimension” (pp. 26-27). These dimensions deal with whether oppression is intentional and unintentional, whether it happens on an individual, institutional, and social/cultural level and with how it is applied. Hardiman et al. added, however, that “it is not useful to argue about a hierarchy of oppressions” (p. 33).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Insiders/Outsiders: Those who are/are not in the norm, majority, power.

Managing Privilege: Effectively addressing the subtle, unearned advantages that enhance one’s success and hinder the success of others.

Diversity: Variety of abilities, skills, experiences, and cultural backgrounds, in all stakeholders.

Privilege: The absence of barriers and the presence of unearned positive advantages.

Journey to Managing Privilege: The Kaleidoscope Group’s model describing stages leaders go through before they are able to effectively manage privilege. These stages can be described as bliss, awareness, overprotection, enlightened, and ultimately managing privilege.

Inclusion: Valuing and leveraging differences to achieve superior results.

Inclusive Leadership: Leadership characterized by: 1) integrating diversity and inclusion into the business strategy; 2) fostering an inclusive and fair work environment; 3) building effective relationships across lines of difference; 4) attracting, coaching, sponsoring, and developing diverse talent; 5) managing inclusively; and 6) managing privilege.

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