Leading in a Changing World: A Vision for the Future of Leadership

By Wynne Nowland, CEO — Bradley & Parker

In any industry, leading a company requires a keen understanding of the dynamics of change. The business landscape is constantly changing, shifting as the world and perspectives shift.

Several years ago, when I transitioned, I brought about significant change within the organization I lead. With one email to my colleagues and employees, I laid out a vision for the future of our company under my leadership.

The world is changing around us. Topics of diversity, inclusion, and equity within the workplace are discussed with far more freedom than ever before. Leading a company amid these changes takes determination, an understanding of different experiences, and an eye on how diversity and inclusion play into sustainable growth.

A unique perspective

My personal experience as a transgender CEO has helped me transcend traditional business narratives as a leader. Navigating the journey of transitioning requires adaptability and empathy — both indispensable qualities for leading a team in any industry. The challenges I have faced as I confront societal norms have provided insight into how I can best manage adversity and transformation within the company I lead.

I understand the importance of diversity and inclusion firsthand. As I learned to live as my authentic self and navigated how that would look in the workplace, I gained a deep appreciation for embracing differences and creating a workplace environment where everyone can authentically thrive.

When you are a leader with a unique perspective, you have to be willing to stretch your organization and leadership approach beyond token diversity initiatives. Organizations can only thrive when there is genuine inclusion, and every voice is valued.

The importance of inclusivity

Today, inclusivity is a primary driver for organizational success. The days of shrugging off the importance of diversity in the workplace are over, and companies that fail to see the writing on the wall are bound to suffer the consequences of their failure to adapt to changing times.

Inclusivity is not just a buzzword. It means creating a work environment where each individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique talents to the team and the organization’s mission. Companies can unlock a wealth of opportunities and benefits by fostering inclusivity, taking them far beyond simply meeting arbitrary diversity standards.

Inclusivity enhances employee morale, job satisfaction, and participation. When employees feel that their voices are heard and their abilities are noticed, they are more likely to be invested in their work. A positive work culture can grow from this recognition, characterized by creativity, collaborative efforts, and retention.

Inclusive work environments also breed innovation. With a diverse workforce, different perspectives can lead to creative solutions and “out-of-the-box” problem-solving. Conversely, when a company sticks to a homogenous standard, it runs the risk of its ideas growing stagnant. A perspective of “This is how it has always been done” can be toxic, especially in a rapidly changing world.

We are operating in a fiercely competitive job market. As the Great Resignation continues, employees are no longer willing to accept jobs with no upward mobility, low pay, and no recognition for their contributions. People seeking employment are prioritizing workplaces that are willing to demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and are more likely to stay with companies that value their contributions and invest in their growth.

Beyond internal benefits, a company’s dedication to diversity and inclusion also enhances its brand and reputation. Companies that place a high priority on inclusion are viewed as progressive and ethical, attracting a customer base that shares those values. It isn’t just about doing what is right; it’s about doing what needs to be done to build a robust and resilient business. Research shows that companies with strong DEI policies that are well executed are more profitable than those that aren’t.

Strategies for inclusivity

Fostering inclusivity within a workplace must go far beyond simply declaring it a priority. Set strategies need to be implemented to build an inclusive workplace from the inside out.

Clear policies and procedures

The organization must have clear policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination and harassment based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or age. The policies should be easily accessible for all employees, and adherence must be standard across the entire organization, from the C-suite to support staff.

Provide training

Diversity and inclusion training has become increasingly relied upon to improve work cultures and bring workplaces into the modern age. Regular training sessions can educate people on topics such as unconscious bias, privilege, or the latest laws governing inclusion in the workplace. The goal is to foster empathy and understanding among employees so they may infuse their day-to-day interactions with one another with respect.

Diverse representation and leadership

Being a transgender CEO has allowed me a platform to speak about my unique experience. The more diverse representation we have in the C-suite, the better. Individuals from underrepresented groups need to be recruited, mentored, and considered for leadership positions.

As a transgender leader, I lead by example. My workplace’s culture of inclusion and diversity allowed me to come out and be supported as I began to work as my authentic self. Embracing diversity can have transformative power in the workplace, allowing people to be more seen, more supported, and more heard. As the world evolves, it becomes more evident that inclusivity isn’t just a checkbox for leaders or a trend to follow half-heartedly; it is a cultural imperative.

About the Author

Wynne Nowland is the CEO of Bradley & Parker, and she is also a transgender woman. At age 56, she came out as trans to her entire company in an email—featured in the WSJ—saying, “You’ve all known me as Wayne, but tomorrow morning I will arrive to work as Wynne.” She was already out to her family and many friends, but coming out at work was her final step to being who she truly was, and almost everyone at her firm greeted her with open arms. As one of the very few trans CEOs, Wynne can provide unique insight on coming out to family, as well as in the workplace. Wynne has been featured in The Hill, Newsweek, Business Insider, TODAY, CNBC, and more.