Posted: 14 Aug. 2020 03 min. read

Being inclusive and casting a long, powerful leadership shadow

At Deloitte, we lead with inclusion – it’s the heart of our culture and part of our DNA. In fact, fostering inclusion is one of our five shared values. Let’s take a deep dive into what this means in how we foster our culture, lead from the front and operationalise best practice.

Last week I was honoured to present at a conference in India hosted by AVTAR called The Power of I. I was asked to speak about our commitment to inclusion, which starts right at the top with our CEO and the leadership team, because we’re passionate about creating an environment in which all our people can truly be themselves, openly share their unique perspectives and experiences, and be their best selves. Not only is this the right thing to do for our people, it’s inspirational and it means we can bring our diverse heads together to solve our clients’ most complex problems.

Organisationally, we hold ourselves accountable by having a crystal clear Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing strategy – with measurable objectives. Our strategy is intentionally embedded in the firm’s 2024 business strategy, and the ongoing delivery of our Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing strategy and related programs are closely governed via the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Council comprising key senior Partners including our CEO as Chair.

One example of how we hold ourselves accountable and measure success is through our ALL IN strategy, our Gender Inclusion strategy which commits to increasing the representation of female leaders in the firm. We have set targets and hold ourselves and our leaders accountable for achieving these. 

At the conference, I also spoke about the Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership. Launched in 2016, this evidence-based framework makes sense and is good for all businesses because you can leverage diverse thinking to create competitive advantage.

Signature Traits

My personal favourite is courage, which I believe comes with a need to be humble and vulnerable, and be honest with yourself and others that you don’t know everything. It takes courage to question the way things have always been done and to encourage others to follow you into new ways of working. In fact, I think we have all had to be courageous over the last few months as we learn to work in new ways because of COVID-19. Virtual meetings and conferences have become the norm, and we have had to adapt at speed and be courageous.

For many organisations, the hard part is putting great theory into awesome action. And at Deloitte, we like to operationalise best practice like the Signature Traits, because we know it strengthens and protects our wonderful brand, supports our people to lead from the front, and is felt and noticed by our clients.

Another facet of inclusion is the leadership shadow we cast as leaders. From a Deloitte perspective, we define this as the shadow you cast on others through your behaviour – what you say and do, what you measure and what you prioritise. For example, if you say you support and promote women in the workplace, and you measure yourself against this, you will cast a deep and powerful shadow. The opposite is also true:  if you say one thing but don’t deliver, your leadership shadow will be short and ineffectual.

Some questions I encourage myself and those I mentor to think about are:

  • What do people say about you, after you leave the room?
  • What impression do you want to leave?
  • What behaviour do you want to inspire in those around you?
  • What behaviour does you walk past, and when do you stop to question the way someone may be saying something in a way that does not reflect your organisational values?


I think about this a lot.

Jacinda Ardern and her hallmark empathy, Warren Buffett and his passion to make others better, Brené Brown and the choices she says we should make each day, and Indra Nooyi and her endless curiosity to learn. There are so many inspirational leaders we can learn from in both small and large businesses, governments, not for profits and politics.

But the real question is: What do you stand for? And what do you want to be known for? What will your leadership shadow be?

Meet our author

Margaret Dreyer

Margaret Dreyer

Partner, Audit & Assurance

Margaret is a senior Audit and Assurance partner. She is a former member of the Deloitte Australia board and is the Lead Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing Partner nationally. Margaret champions a number of national programs, most notably "All In". Through her leadership Deloitte has achieved the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency’s ‘Employer of Choice for Women’ award for over twelve years. Margaret’s extensive portfolio incorporates some of the world’s largest multinational organisations.